Experimental assessments of semantic memory structure and function in schizophrenic subjects can be a useful approach for delineating some of the information processing deficits in schizophrenia. In this study, a pronunciation and a lexical decision semantic priming experiment were conducted with 19 schizophrenic subjects and 20 normal controls. A short stimulus-onset asynchrony (250 msec) and a relatively low proportion of related prime-target pairs were used in order to examine automatic priming and in order to avoid the contribution of attentional, controlled processes. On the pronunciation task, schizophrenic subjects showed a significant priming effect, equal to the priming shown by normal controls. However, on the lexical decision task, schizophrenics, unlike normal controls, did not show a priming effect which is significantly greater than zero, even though the group difference in priming effect (interaction of priming effect by group) was nonsignificant. The lack of priming on the lexical decision task is consistent with the hypothesis that schizophrenic subjects may show abnormalities in the realm of post-lexical, controlled information processing. The equal-to-normal priming for schizophrenic subjects indicates that the basic structure of the semantic network, including associations among related concepts, is intact in schizophrenia, and that spreading activation also occurs normally.
- Semantic memory
- Semantic priming