Significance in Schizophrenic Thought Disorder

Littler, Susan L. (Ph.D., 1987)

Thesis directed by Professor Peter G. Ossorio

This study investigated the Descriptive Psychology concept of significance in schizophrenic thought disorder. Significance has to do with the meaning of a behavior to the person behaving, and answers the question "What was s/he doing by doing that?" Being blind to significance may be an adaptive style shielding the schizophrenic from uncomfortable or painful realities. It was hypothesized that schizophrenics would be deficient in the recognition of significance and that this deficit would interfere with their ability to perform abstract cognitive tasks that involved a recognition of significance, but that it would not interfere with abstract tasks that do not call upon this ability. It was also hypothesized that the more severely impaired the schizophrenic, the more deficient he would be in recognizing significance.

Overall, the results did not confirm the hypotheses. However, findings did provide some support for the general thesis that significance is an important variable in schizophrenia. It is suggested that the measures used to identify significance be refined to identify this variable better. There is some reason to believe that the schizophrenic group was not sufficiently impaired for the hypothesized effect to be demonstrated. It appears that with refinements in the measures, and with an appropriate selection of participants, future research studies using this conceptual design may produce positive findings. [149 pp.]