Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 5-31-1960


This study is concerned with some aspects of the listening of schizophrenics that seem amenable to interpretation in terms of learning theory and current psychotherapeutic approaches to this disorder. It is exploratory in nature and is designed to investigate the effects of "censure," "emotionality," "empathy,” and "type of disorder” on the listening of schizophrenics. The choice of these variables was guided by both the experimental and clinical literature which attempts to account for schizophrenic behavior as a defensive reaction to threat. The selection of learning theory does not imply a lack of other theories to explain the same behavior. Rather, the advantage of such an approach is found in the readiness with which the hypotheses may be tested, and the support which the clinical and experimental literature has already furnished. The importance of the study lies in the fact that listening is a relatively untouched area of the disturbed communication process which exists with the schizophrenic patient. This study is an attempt to gain insight into the factors that interfere with the listening of schizophrenics. Such insight may allow the psychotherapist to improve his ability to communicate with these patients by avoiding those factors that produce a deficit in their listening. Specific hypotheses were derived from the review of the literature and an extension of Hullian learning theory. The variables of "censure,” and "emotionality” were expected to have a deficit effect on the listening of schizophrenics. The variable of "empathy" was expected to vary directly with their listening accuracy. Listening was also expected to vary according to the classification of the patient. Since the standard diagnostic categories have been demonstrated to be unreliable, the subjects were classified into Good and Poor categories according to the nature of the social experiences found in their premorbid histories. A sample of 114 schizophrenic patients was selected from the New Mexico State Hospital, and classified into the Good and Poor premorbid categories using the Phillips Scale. Random samples were then drawn from each category and these samples, in turn, were randomly assigned to each experimental condition to be tested. The study was restricted to relatively acute cooperative male patients, for whom there was no evidence of extra-schizophrenic pathology, and who ranged in age from 18 to 50 years. Three measuring instruments were employed in this study. A multiple choice test, designed by the writer, was used to measure the listening of the schizophrenics. The selection of the "emotional” stimuli was accomplished with a word-association test, and a modified form of Dymond's "Empathy Test” was used to measure the variable of "empathy." The stimulus words for the listening test were presented by means of a tape recorder, and minimal "censure” was introduced into the experiment by lighting a box reading "right" or "wrong.” The results offered confirmation of the major hypotheses of the study which asserted that Good premorbid schizophrenics were better listeners than Poor premorbid schizophrenics, and that the Poor premorbids would reveal a greater deficit in their listening when exposed to conditions of "censure, "and” emotionality.” In addition, both categories of schizophrenics maintained a high degree of "empathy" which correlated positively with their listening, although not as highly as predicted. Suggestions were offered for improving communication with the schizophrenic patient in the psychotherapeutic relationship, and future research needs were pointed out.