The relationship between the autism and schizophrenia spectra: an investigation at the trait and cognitive levels

Suzanna Russell-Smith

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Abstract

Although autism and schizophrenia are today considered distinct disorders, they share a tightly intertwined history with the disorders only formally separated in 1980. This thesis examines two specific theories in the current literature which continue to link these two disorders. The first of these theories comes from Crespi and Badcock (2008), who make the novel claim that autism and positive schizophrenia are diametrical opposites on a cognitive continuum. The thesis tests this claim in relation to two specific aspects of cognition: preference for local versus global processing and empathizing and systemizing. While the results contained within the thesis provide some support for autistic and positive schizophrenia spectra traits being diametrically opposed in their effects on preference for local versus global processing, no evidence of the contrasting pattern was found in relation to empathizing and systemizing. The second theory examined in the thesis is that the social deficits associated with the autism spectrum overlap with the negative traits of schizophrenia (Hurst, Nelson-Gray, Mitchell, & Kwapil, 2007). This claim was investigated in the final experimental chapter of the thesis, which examined the degree to which autistic and negative schizophrenia spectra traits converge or diverge in relation to specific aspects of socio-emotional functioning including social skills, depression and anhedonia. Evidence for some overlap, but also clear points of divergence between these sets of traits were identified.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2012

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