Experience and Expression of Emotion in Social Anhedonia: An Examination of Film-Induced Social Affiliative State in Schizotypy

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Social anhedonia is an important feature of schizophrenia and it is a promising indicator of schizotypy. Although social anhedonia is defined as an affective construct (less pleasure derived from social encounters), little is actually known about the affective correlates of social anhedonia. Prior laboratory research is limited in that no prior study has used affiliative social stimuli in examining affective reactions associated with anhedonia. This study sought to extend prior research through an examination of the expression and experience of emotion in social anhedonics by using a novel social affiliative film stimulus. After screening a large sample of female undergraduate students (N = 1,085), a cohort of psychometrically identified social anhedonics (n = 34) and normally hedonic controls (n = 45) participated in laboratory assessments involving trait affectivity, self-reported dispositional emotional expressiveness, and the expression and experience of emotion in response to neutral, non-affiliative (i.e., comedy) and affiliative film clips. Results showed that social anhedonics have lower trait positive affect compared to controls, but there were no group differences in trait negative affect. At baseline, social anhedonics reported lower state positive affect and less warmth and affection compared to controls, but there were no group differences in state negative affect. Social anhedonics also reported the disposition to be less expressive. Consistent with their reports of attenuated emotional experience and expression outside of the laboratory, social anhedonics reported less positive affect and displayed less facial expressions in response to affect eliciting films in the laboratory. Social anhedonics, however, did not report less warmth and affection across the films as compared to controls. Additionally, social anhedonics did not report less positive emotions or warmth and affection in response to the affiliative film, as compared to the non-affiliative (i.e., comedy) film. Implications and study limitations are discussed.