The relationship between clinical insight and cognitive and affective empathy in schizophrenia

Mia Atoui, Fatima El Jamil, Joseph El Khoury, Mark Doumit, Nathalie Syriani, Munir Khani, Ziad Nahas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Background: Schizophrenia is often associated with poor clinical insight (unawareness of mental illness and its symptoms) and deficits in empathy, which are important for social functioning. Cognitive empathy has been linked to clinical insight while affective empathy and its role in insight and pathology have received mixed evidence. Methods: Instruments assessing symptomatology (Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale; PANSS), clinical insight (Scales to assess awareness of mental disorders; SUMD), and cognitive and affective empathy were administered to 22 participants with first episode and chronic schizophrenia and 21 healthy controls. Self-report, parent-report, and performance based measures were used to assess cognitive and affective empathy (The interpersonal reactivity index; IRI/Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test/Faux Pas) to reduce bias and parse shared variance. Results: Age of onset, gender, and symptomatology emerged as significant predictors of poor clinical insight. Additionally, the fantasy subscale of the IRI as reported by parents emerged as a positive predictor while the personal distress (parent report) subscale emerged as a negative predictor of awareness into mental illness. There were significant differences on performance-based measures of empathy between the control and schizophrenia groups. Conclusion: Findings suggest that affective empathy is relatively intact across phases of illness whereas cognitive empathy abilities are compromised and could be targets for psychotherapy intervention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)56-65
Number of pages10
JournalSchizophrenia Research: Cognition
StatePublished - Jun 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018


  • Affective empathy
  • Clinical insight
  • Cognitive empathy
  • Empathic concern
  • Fantasy
  • Personal distress
  • Perspective taking
  • Symptomatology


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