Parsing Hedonic Capacity in Schizotypy: A Multi-Method Assessment of Consummatory and Anticipatory Pleasure

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This study was an attempt to examine anhedonia (or a reduced capacity to experience pleasant emotion) in individuals with elevated schizotypy. Anhedonia deficits in schizophrenia have been well-documented in studies utilizing self-report and clinician interviews; however, research has also shown that when presented with emotionally evocative stimuli, individuals with schizophrenia respond in a normative manner. One explanation for these paradoxical findings is that individuals with schizophrenia do not lack the capacity to experience pleasure (termed consummatory pleasure), but instead have a deficit in anticipating how pleasurable an event will be outside of the context of an immediately experienced event (known as anticipatory pleasure). Research is beginning to indicate that anticipatory pleasure deficits are evident in the schizophrenia population; however, a number of confounding variables are associated with this population which render conclusions about hedonic capacity difficult. A complimentary approach to examining individuals with schizophrenia is to identify nonclinical individuals with elevations in traits that are considered to be within the schizophrenia spectrum, namely, schizotypal traits. Utilizing the schizotypy concept first described by Paul Meehl, this study examines hedonic capacity using a multi-method approach (consisting of self-report, clinical interview, and an emotionally evocative stimulus) in schizotypy within a sample of undergraduate college students. Results were able to confirm that individuals with schizophrenia spectrum psychopathology both self-report and are rated as experiencing impairments in the ability to anticipate future pleasure. No group differences in anticipatory pleasure were identified on the laboratory stimulus, raising questions about our understanding of the nature of the anticipatory pleasure deficit in schizophrenia spectrum psychopathology.