Misattribution of external speech in patients with hallucinations and delusions.
Allen PP., Johns LC., Fu CHY., Broome MR., Vythelingum GN., McGuire PK.
BACKGROUND: One of the main cognitive models of positive symptoms in schizophrenia proposes that they arise through impaired self-monitoring. This is supported by evidence of behavioural deficits on tasks designed to engage self-monitoring, but these deficits could also result from an externalising response bias. We examined whether patients with hallucinations and delusions would demonstrate an externalising bias on a task that did not involve cognitive self-monitoring. METHOD: Participants passively listened (without speaking) to recordings of single adjectives spoken in their own and another person's voice, and made self/nonself judgements about their source. The acoustic quality of recorded speech was experimentally manipulated by altering the pitch. Fifteen patients with schizophrenia who were currently experiencing hallucinations and delusions, 13 patients with schizophrenia not experiencing current hallucinations and delusions and 15 healthy controls were compared. RESULTS: When listening to distorted words, patients with hallucinations and delusions were more likely than both the group with no hallucinations and delusions and the control group to misidentify their own speech as alien (i.e. spoken by someone else). Across the combined patient groups, the tendency to misidentify self-generated speech as alien was positively correlated with current severity of hallucinations but not with ratings of delusions or positive symptoms in general. CONCLUSIONS: These findings indicate that patients with hallucinations and delusions are prone to misidentifying their own verbal material as alien in a task which does not involve cognitive self-monitoring. This suggests that these symptoms are related to an externalising bias in the processing of sensory material, and not solely a function of defective self-monitoring.