Journal List > Korean J Schizophr Res > v.16(1) > 1057787

Korean J Schizophr Res. 2013 Apr;16(1):25-31. Korean.
Published online April 30, 2013.
Copyright © 2013 Korean Society for Schizophrenia
Deficits in Abstract Thinking Assessed by Theme Identification in Patients with Schizophrenia
Jooyoung Oh, MD,1 Ji-Won Chun, PhD,2 and Jae-Jin Kim, MD, PhD1,2
1Department of Psychiatry, Yonsei University College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea.
2Institute of Behavioral Science in Medicine, Yonsei University College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea.

Address for correspondence: Jae-Jin Kim, Department of Psychiatry, Yonsei University Gangnam Severance Hospital, 211 Eonju-ro, Gangnam-gu, Seoul 135-720, Korea. Tel: 02-2019-3341, Fax: 02-3462-4304, Email:
Received February 25, 2013; Revised April 10, 2013; Accepted April 11, 2013.



Patients with schizophrenia often have a concrete thinking or an impairment in abstract thinking, but there has been a limitation in quantitatively measuring this cognitive function. The aim of the current study was to investigate a deficit in abstract thinking in patients with schizophrenia using the theme identification task.


Twenty subjects with schizophrenia and 20 healthy volunteers participated in the behavioral study for theme identification. The visual stimuli were composed of a series of pictures, which contained positive or negative emotional situations. Three words, indicating a main theme of the picture, a theme-related item and a theme-unrelated item, respectively, were presented in the bottom of the pictures, and participants had to select a theme.


The patient group selected theme words at significantly lower rate in both emotional conditions than the control group (positive, p=0.002 ; negative, p=0.001). Especially, in the negative condition, the patient group more selected theme-unrelated items than the control group (p=0.001). The rates of theme identification were inversely correlated with scores of the Social Anhedonia Scale (positive, r=-0.440, p=0.007 ; negative, r=-0.366, p=0.028).


Patients with schizophrenia exhibited an impairment in abstract thinking, and it was remarkable in the negative condition. The ability to think abstractly was associated with the severity of social anhedonia. The impairment of abstract thinking may become one of the reasons for poor social functioning in socially anhedonic patients.

Keywords: Schizophrenia; Abstract thinking; Emotion; Theme identification; Anhedonia


Fig. 1
Examples of the theme identification task (Left) and the emotion recognition task (Right).
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Fig. 2
Selection rate of related versus unrelated words in the wrong trials on the theme identification task. *: p<0.01. SPR : schizophrenia.
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Table 1
Clinical characteristics of the subjects
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Table 2
Behavioral responses in the theme identification task
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Table 3
Behavioral responses in the emotion recognition task
Click for larger image

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