Why you can't be in sync with schizophrenia patients

  • Rainteau Nicolas
  • Salesse Robin
  • Macgregor Alexandra
  • Macioce Valérie
  • Raffard Stéphane
  • Capdevielle Delphine

  • Mirror game
  • Psychotic disorders
  • Sociomotor behaviour
  • Stereotype
  • Stigma
  • Schizophrenia


Most individuals with schizophrenia will be confronted with some form of stigma. In recent years, clinicians and family members have increasingly contested the term "schizophrenia". Many of them discuss changing this name, as a means to fight stigma. Up until now, surprisingly, most research has been conducted using self-reports and behavioral research is lacking. The aim of our study was to assess through an experimental design if the term "schizophrenia" itself modifies social behaviours. Forty participants were asked to engage in a synchronization task with a dot displayed on a screen and moved by another person. Non-clinicians participants had to synchronize their movements as accurately as possible with either a "schizophrenia" patient, a patient with "neuro-emotional integration disorder" or a "healthy" subject, kept out of sight. Each condition was counterbalanced between participants. In fact, the movements of the dot were pre-recorded (five trajectories) and were therefore identical for all three conditions. Measuring the error between the displayed and performed trajectories, participants exhibited more errors when they thought they were interacting with a patient in comparison to the "healthy" subject. Post-hoc analysis revealed an even higher difference between "schizophrenia" and "healthy" conditions. Altogether, our results show a significant behavioral impact of the term "schizophrenia" with possibly negative consequences on social interactions. The effect of changing the name reduces this impact but remains unclear.