Associative disturbance and the complex indicators of schizophrenic and nonpsychiatric patients



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This study is a comparison of word association (WA) patterns in schizophrenic and nonpsychiatric subjects (Ss). The following hypotheses are tested: Hypothesis 1. Complex indicators (CIs) result from associative disturbance and not from perceptual dysfunction nor differences in expressive styles. Hypothesis 2. Associative disturbance is limited to schizophrenics. Hypothesis 3. The mishearing of stimulus words is a special class of CIs resulting from perceptual dysfunction. Hypothesis 4. S-R domains of CI-eliciting stimuli are disorganized. Hypothesis 5. Schizophrenic patients have insight into the commonality of their responses. Hypothesis 6. More stimulus words eliciting CIs are undefinable than is true of stimulus words eliciting acceptable responses, Testing the above hypotheses involved the evaluation of the effects of the following tasks on WA responses: free association, reproduction, continuous association, popular association, definition, and final free association. Responses were elicited from 22 chronic schizophrenic and 14 nonpsychiatric male patients; thirteen Ss were matched in each group by age, race, education, and verbal intelligence. The percentage of responses indicating high commonality, reproduction failures, and improvement of Cis in series were analyzed by a four-way analysis of variance. Hypotheses 1, 2, and 3 were supported. Associative disturbance was indicated by a 20% increase in mean reproduction changes of Cis over acceptable responses, 60% of Cis improved in subsequent tasks. However, 51% of Cis were immediately improved in Condition II; this result indicates much associative disturbance is limited to easily corrected perceptual involvement. Evidence of oppositional response styles was not found. Schizophrenic responses were somewhat less common than those of nonpsychiatric Ss. However, diagnostic groups did not differ in their knowledge and use of primary commonality responses. Hypotheses 4, 5, and 6 were not supported. The results support the concept of associative disturbance as a general dysfunctional state and emphasize its perceptual component.