Date of this Version
Stinson, J.;Wolfe, R.; Spaulding,W. Social Connectedness in Schizotypy: The Role of Cognitive and Affective Empathy. Behav. Sci. 2022, 12, 253. https://doi.org/ 10.3390/bs12080253
Social connectedness is increasingly understood to be a resilience factor that moderates vulnerability to poor physical and mental health. This study examines cognitive and affective processes that support normal socialization and social connectedness, and the impact of schizotypy, in well-functioning college students. In this study, a total of 824 college students completed a series of self-report questionnaires, and structural equation modeling was then employed to identify relationships between cognitive and affective empathy, alexithymia, distress tolerance, social connectedness, and schizotypy. Schizotypy is a trait-like condition, presumed to be genetic in origin, associated with the risk for schizophrenia. Like schizophrenia, schizotypy is thought to have three distinct dimensions or categories, termed positive, negative, and disorganized. Results indicate that the respective dimensions of schizotypy have different pathways to social connectedness, through both direct and indirect effects. Positive schizotypy exerts a counterintuitive positive influence on social connectedness, mediated by positive effects on cognitive empathy, but this is obscured by the high correlations between the schizotypal dimensions and the strong negative influences on empathy and social connectedness of the negative and disorganized dimensions, unless all those intercorrelations are taken into account. Overall, the pathways identified by structural equation modeling strongly support the role of empathy in mediating the impact of schizotypy on social connectedness. Implications for the etiology of social impairments in schizotypy, and for interventions to enhance social connectedness to improve quality of life and reduce health disparities in people at risk for severe mental illness, are discussed.