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schizotypy, schizotypy and schizophrenia
In psychology, schizotypy is a theory stating that there is a continuum of personality characteristics and experiences ranging from normal dissociative, imaginative states to more extreme states related to psychosis and in particular, schizophrenia This is in contrast to a categorical view of psychosis, where psychosis is considered to be a particular usually pathological state, that someone either does or does not have


  • 1 Development of the concept
  • 2 The relationship between schizotypy, mental health and mental illness
    • 21 Quasi-dimensional approach
    • 22 Dimensional approach
    • 23 Fully dimensional approach
  • 3 Relationship to personality traits
  • 4 Possible biological bases of schizotypy
    • 41 Anhedonia
    • 42 Weakness of inhibitory mechanisms
      • 421 Negative priming
      • 422 SAWCI
      • 423 Attention, working memory, and executive functions
    • 43 Abnormalities of arousal
      • 431 Dissociation of different arousal systems
      • 432 Hyperarousal
      • 433 Aberrant salience hypothesis
  • 5 See also
  • 6 References
  • 7 Further reading

Development of the conceptedit

The categorical view of psychosis is most associated with Emil Kraepelin, who created criteria for the medical diagnosis and classification of different forms of psychotic illness Particularly, he made the distinction between dementia praecox now called schizophrenia, manic depressive insanity and non-psychotic states Modern diagnostic systems used in psychiatry such as the DSM maintain this categorical view1

In contrast, psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler did not believe there was a clear separation between sanity and madness, believing instead that psychosis was simply an extreme expression of thoughts and behaviours that could be present to varying degrees throughout the population2

The concept of psychosis as a spectrum was further developed by psychologists such as Hans Eysenck and Gordon Claridge, who sought to understand unusual variations in thought and behaviour in terms of personality theory Eysenck conceptualised cognitive and behavioral variations as all together forming a single personality trait, psychoticism3

Claridge named his concept schizotypy, and through examination of unusual experiences in the general population and clustering of symptoms in individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia, the work of Claridge work suggested that this personality trait was more complex than had been previously thought and could be broken down into four factors45

  1. Unusual experiences: The disposition to have unusual perceptual and other cognitive experiences, such as hallucinations, magical or superstitious belief and interpretation of events see also delusions
  2. Cognitive disorganization: A tendency for thoughts to become derailed, disorganised or tangential see also formal thought disorder
  3. Introverted anhedonia: A tendency to introverted, emotionally flat and asocial behaviour, associated with a deficiency in the ability to feel pleasure from social and physical stimulation
  4. Impulsive nonconformity: The disposition to unstable mood and behaviour particularly with regard to rules and social conventions

The relationship between schizotypy, mental health and mental illnessedit

Although aiming to reflect some of the features present in diagnosable mental illness, schizotypy does not necessarily imply that someone who is more schizotypal than someone else is more ill For example, certain aspects of schizotypy may be beneficial Both the unusual experiences and cognitive disorganisation aspects have been linked to creativity and artistic achievement6 Jackson7 proposed the concept of ‘benign schizotypy’ in relation to certain classes of religious experience, which he suggested might be regarded as a form of problem-solving and therefore of adaptive value The link between positive schizotypy and certain facets of creativity8 is consistent with the notion of a "healthy schizotypy", which may account for the persistence of schizophrenia-related genes in the population despite their many dysfunctional aspects

However, the exact nature of the relationship between schizotypy and diagnosable psychotic illness is still controversial One of the key concerns that researchers have had is that questionnaire-based measures of schizotypy, when analysed using factor analysis, do not suggest that schizotypy is a unified, homogeneous concept The three main approaches have been labelled as 'quasi-dimensional', ‘dimensional’ and ‘fully dimensional’9

Each approach is sometimes used to imply that schizotypy reflects a cognitive or biological vulnerability to psychosis, although this may remain dormant and never express itself, unless triggered by appropriate environmental events or conditions such as certain doses of drugs or high levels of stress

Quasi-dimensional approachedit

The quasi-dimensional model may be traced back to Bleuler2 the inventor of the term ‘schizophrenia’, who commented on two types of continuity between normality and psychosis: that between the schizophrenic and his or her relatives, and that between the patient’s premorbid and post-morbid personalities ie their personality before and after the onset of overt psychosis

On the first score he commented: ‘If one observes the relatives of our patients, one often finds in them peculiarities which are qualitatively identical with those of the patients themselves, so that the disease appears to be only a quantitative increase of the anomalies seen in the parents and siblings’10

On the second point, Bleuler discusses in a number of places whether peculiarities displayed by the patient before admission to hospital should be regarded as premonitory symptoms of the disease or merely indications of a predisposition to develop it

Despite these observations of continuity Bleuler himself remained an advocate of the disease model of schizophrenia To this end he invoked a concept of latent schizophrenia, writing: ‘In the latent form, we can see in nuce in a nutshell all the symptoms and all the combinations of symptoms which are present in the manifest types of the disease’10

Later advocates of the quasi-dimensional view of schizotypy are Rado11 and Meehl,12 according to both of whom schizotypal symptoms merely represent less explicitly expressed manifestations of the underlying disease process which is schizophrenia Rado proposed the term ‘schizotype’ to describe the person whose genetic make-up gave him or her a lifelong predisposition to schizophrenia

The quasi-dimensional model is so called because the only dimension it postulates is that of gradations of severity or explicitness in relation to the symptoms of a disease process: namely schizophrenia

Dimensional approachedit

The dimensional approach, influenced by personality theory, argues that full blown psychotic illness is just the most extreme end of the schizotypy spectrum and there is a natural continuum between people with low and high levels of schizotypy This model is most closely associated with the work of Hans Eysenck, who regarded the person exhibiting the full-blown manifestations of psychosis as simply someone occupying the extreme upper end of his ‘psychoticism’ dimension13

Support for the dimensional model comes from the fact that high-scorers on measures of schizotypy may meet, or partially fulfill, the diagnostic criteria for schizophrenia spectrum disorders, such as schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, schizoid personality disorder and schizotypal personality disorder Similarly, when analyzed, schizotypy traits often break down into similar groups as do symptoms from schizophrenia14 although they are typically present in much less intense forms

Fully dimensional approachedit

Claridge calls the latest version of his model ‘the fully dimensional approach’15 However, it might also be characterised as the hybrid or composite approach, as it incorporates elements of both the disease model and the dimensional one

On this latest Claridge model, schizotypy is regarded as a dimension of personality, normally distributed throughout the population, as in the Eysenck model However, schizophrenia itself is regarded as a breakdown process, quite distinct from the continuously distributed trait of schizotypy, and forming a second, graded continuum, ranging from schizotypal personality disorder to full-blown schizophrenic psychosis

The model is characterised as fully dimensional because, not only is the personality trait of schizotypy continuously graded, but the independent continuum of the breakdown processes is also graded rather than categorical

The fully dimensional approach argues that full blown psychosis is not just high schizotypy, but must involve other factors that make it qualitatively different and pathological

Relationship to personality traitsedit

Many research studies have examined the relationship between schizotypy and standard models of personality such as the Five factor model16 Research has linked the unusual experiences factor to high neuroticism and openness to experience The introvertive anhedonia factor has been linked to high neuroticism and low extraversion The cognitive disorganisation factor has been linked to low conscientiousness It has been argued that these findings provide evidence for a fully dimensional model of schizotypy and that there is a continuum between normal personality and schizotypy16 Relationships between schizotypy and the Temperament and Character Inventory have also been examined17 Self-transcendence, a trait associated with openness to "spiritual" ideas and experiences, has moderate positive associations with schizotypy, particularly with unusual experiences Cloninger described the specific combination of high self-transcendence, low cooperativeness, and low self-directedness as a "schizotypal personality style"17 and research has found that this specific combination of traits is associated with a high "risk" of schizotypy18 Low cooperativeness and self-directedness combined with high self-transcendence may result in openness to odd or unusual ideas and behaviours associated with distorted perceptions of reality17 On the other hand, high levels of cooperativeness and self-directedness may protect against the schizotypal tendencies associated with high self-transcendence19

Possible biological bases of schizotypyedit


Anhedonia, or a reduced ability to experience pleasure, is a feature of full-blown schizophrenia that was commented on by both Kraepelin20 and Bleuler2 However, they regarded it as just one among a number of features that tended to characterise the ‘deterioration’, as they saw it, of the schizophrenic’s emotional life In other words, it was an effect, rather than a cause, of the disease process

Rado21 reversed this way of thinking, and ascribed anhedonia a causal role He considered that the crucial neural deficit in the schizotype was an ‘integrative pleasure deficiency’, ie an innate deficiency in the ability to experience pleasure Meehl22 took on this view, and attempted to relate this deficiency to abnormality in the dopamine system in the brain, which is implicated in the human reward system

Questionnaire research on schizotypy in normal subjects is ambiguous with regard to the causal role, if any, of anhedonia Nettle6 and McCreery and Claridge23 found that high schizotypes as measured by factor 1 above scored lower than controls on the introverted anhedonia factor, as if they were particularly enjoying life

Various writers, including Kelley and Coursey24 and LJ and JP Chapman25 suggest that anhedonia, if present as a pre-existent trait in a person, may act as a potentiating factor, whereas a high capacity for hedonic enjoyment might act as a protecting one

Weakness of inhibitory mechanismsedit

Various lines of evidencecitation needed from experimental psychology have suggested a relative weakness of inhibitory mechanisms may be a characteristic of the schizotypal nervous system

Negative primingedit

A number of studies have found that high schizotypes, as measured by questionnaire, show less negative priming than controls26 Negative priming is said to occur when a person reacts more slowly than usual to a stimulus which has previously been presented as a distractor and which has therefore had to be ignored Beech interprets the relative weakness of the negative priming effect in schizotypes as a sign that ‘inhibition of distracting information is reduced in schizophrenia and high schizotypes’27

The reduced negative priming shown by high schizotypes has the interesting effect that they actually perform better on certain tasks those that require them to respond to previously ignored stimuli than low schizotypes This phenomenon may be of significance in the relation to the question of why schizotypy, and indeed schizophrenia itself, is not progressively ‘weeded out’ by the process of natural selection


The phenomenon of semantic activation without conscious identification SAWCI is said to be displayed when a person shows a priming effect from the processing of consciously undetectable words For example, a person who has just been shown the word ‘giraffe’, but at a speed at which he or she was not able consciously to report what it was, may nevertheless identify more quickly than usual another animal word on the next trial Evans28 found that high schizotypes showed a greater priming effect than controls in such a situation She argued that this could be accounted for by a relative weakness of inhibitory mechanisms in the semantic networks of high schizotypes

Attention, working memory, and executive functionsedit

Schizotypy symptoms have been related to deficits in executive functions, which entails the psychological processes that supersede habitual inclinations with novel responses and behaviors to fulfill important goals In particular, when schizotypy is elevated, the ability to filter out task-irrelevant stimuli may be impaired29 That is, participants who score highly on schizotypy tend to fail to ignore a previously preexposed, non-reinforced stimulus as compared to a non-preexposed, novel and potentially important event

Enhanced performance on Verbal fluency has been associated with high levels of positive schizotypy, ie increased reports of hallucination-like experiences, delusional ideation, and perceptual aberrations However, decreased performance was associated with negative schizotypy, such as anhedonia30

Many studies have also shown that individuals who exhibit schizotypy features demonstrate deficits in Attention and Working memory31323334

Abnormalities of arousaledit

Claridge35 suggested that one consequence of a weakness of inhibitory mechanisms in high schizotypes and schizophrenics might be a relative failure of homeostasis in the central nervous system This, it was proposed, could lead, both to lability of arousal, and to dissociation of arousal in different parts of the nervous system

Dissociation of different arousal systemsedit

Claridge and co-workers363738 have found various types of abnormal co-variation between different psychophysiological variables in schizotypes, including between measures of cortical and autonomic arousal

McCreery and Claridge39 found evidence of a relative activation of the right cerebral hemisphere as compared with the left in high schizotypes attempting to induce a hallucinatory episode in the laboratory This suggested a relative dissociation of arousal between the two hemispheres in such people as compared with controls


A failure of homeostasis in the central nervous system could lead to episodes of hyper-arousal Oswald40 has pointed out that extreme stress and hyper-arousal can lead to sleep as a provoked reaction McCreery4142 has suggested that this could account for the phenomenological similarities between Stage 1 sleep and psychosis, which include hallucinations, delusions, and flattened or inappropriate affect emotions On this model, high schizotypes and schizophrenics are people who are liable to what Oswald calls ‘micro-sleeps’, or intrusions of Stage 1 sleep phenomena into waking consciousness, on account of their tendency to high arousal

In support of this view McCreery points to the high correlation that has been found to exist5 between scores on the Chapmans’ Perceptual Aberration scale,43 which measures proneness to perceptual anomalies such as hallucinations, and the Chapmans’ Hypomania scale,44 which measures a tendency to episodes of heightened arousal This correlation is found despite the fact that there is no overlap of item content between the two scales

In the clinical field there is also the paradoxical finding of Stevens and Darbyshire,45 that schizophrenic patients exhibiting the symptom of catatonia can be aroused from their apparent stupor by the administration of sedative rather than stimulant drugs They wrote: ‘The psychic state in catatonic schizophrenia can be described as one of great excitement ie, hyperalertness… The inhibition of activity apparently does not alter the inner seething excitement'

It is argued that such a view would be consistent with the model that suggests schizophrenics and high schizotypes are people with a tendency to hyper-arousal

Aberrant salience hypothesisedit

Kapur 2003 proposed that a hyperdopaminergic state, at a "brain" level of description, leads to an aberrant assignment of salience to the elements of one’s experience, at a "mind" level46 Dopamine mediates the conversion of the neural representation of an external stimulus from a neutral bit of information into an attractive or aversive entity, ie a salient event 4 Symptoms of schizophrenia and schizotypy may arise out of ‘the aberrant assignment of salience to external objects and internal representations’, and antipsychotic medications reduce positive symptoms, by attenuating aberrant motivational salience, via blockade of the Dopamine D2 receptors Kapur, 2003 There is no evidence however on a link between attentional irregularities and enhanced stimulus salience in schizotypy47

See alsoedit

  • Apparitional experience
  • Hallucinations
  • Hallucinations in the sane
  • Pareidolia
  • Psychosis
  • Psychoticism
  • Schizoaffective disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Schizotypal personality disorder
  • Transliminality


  1. ^ American Psychiatric Association 1994 DSM IV: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition Washington: APA
  2. ^ a b c Bleuler, E 1911 Dementia Praecox or the Group of Schizophrenias Translated by J Zinkin New York: International Universities Press, Inc 1950
  3. ^ See, for example, Eysenck, HJ 1992 The Definition and Meaning of Psychoticism Personality and Individual Differences, 13, 757-785
  4. ^ Bentall, RP, Claridge, G and Slade, PD 1989 The multi dimensional nature of schizotypal traits: a factor analytic study with normal subjects British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 28, 363-375
  5. ^ a b Claridge, G,McCreery, C, Mason, O, Bentall, R,Boyle, G, Slade, P, & Popplewell, D 1996 The factor structure of 'schizotypal' traits: A large replication study British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 35, 103-115
  6. ^ a b Nettle, D 2006 Schizotypy and mental health amongst poets, visual artist, and mathematicians Journal of Research in Personality, 40, 876-890 Also available online: Nettle, 2006
  7. ^ Jackson, M 1997 Benign schizotypy The case of religious experience In G Claridge, ed, Schizotypy, implications for illness and health Oxford: Oxford University Press Pp 227-250
  8. ^ ^ Tsakanikos, E & Claridge, G 2005 More words, less words: Verbal fluency as a function of 'positive' and 'negative' schizotypy Personality and Individual Differences, 39, 705-713
  9. ^ For a discussion of these three variant models, see McCreery, C and Claridge, G 2002 Healthy schizotypy: the case of out-of-the-body experiences Personality and Individual Differences, 32, 141-154
  10. ^ a b Bleuler, E 1911 Dementia Praecox or the Group of Schizophrenias Translated by J Zinkin New York: International Universities Press, Inc 1950, p 238
  11. ^ Rado, S 1953 Dynamics and classification of disordered behaviour American Journal of Psychiatry, 110, 406 416
  12. ^ Meehl, PE 1962 Schizotaxia, schizotypy, schizophrenia American Psychologist, 17, 827 838
  13. ^ Eysenck, HJ 1960 Classification and the problems of diagnosis In HJ Eysenck, ed, Handbook of Abnormal Psychology London: Pitman Pp1-31
  14. ^ Liddle, PF 1987 The symptoms of chronic schizophrenia: A re-examination of the positive negative dichotomy British Journal of Psychology, 151, 145 151
  15. ^ See, for example, Claridge, G and Beech, T 1995 Fully and quasi-dimensional constructions of schizotypy In Raine, A, Lencz, T, and Mednick, SA, Schizotypal Personality Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  16. ^ a b Asai, Tomohisa; Sugimori, Eriko; Bando, Naoko; Tanno, Yoshihiko 2011 "The hierarchic structure in schizotypy and the five-factor model of personality" Psychiatry Research 185 1–2: 78–83 doi:101016/jpsychres200907018 PMID 20537405 
  17. ^ a b c Laidlaw, Tannis M; Dwivedi, Prabudha; Naito, Akira; Gruzelier, John H 2005 "Low self-directedness TCI, mood, schizotypy and hypnotic susceptibility" Personality and Individual Differences 39 2: 469 doi:101016/jpaid200501025 
  18. ^ Danelluzo, E; Stratta, P; Rossi, A Jan–Feb 2005 "The contribution of temperament and character to schizotypy multidimensionality" Comprehensive Psychiatry 46 1: 50–5 doi:101016/jcomppsych200407010 PMID 15714195 
  19. ^ Smith, Matthew J; Cloninger, CR; Harms, MP; Csernansky, JG September 2008 "Temperament and character as schizophrenia-related endophenotypes in non-psychotic siblings" Schizophrenia Research 104 1–3: 198–205 doi:101016/jschres200806025 PMC 2565802  PMID 18718739 
  20. ^ Kraepelin, E 1913 Dementia Praecox and Paraphrenia Translated by RM Barclay Edinburgh: Livingston, 1919
  21. ^ Rado, S 1953 Dynamics and classification of disordered behaviour American Journal of Psychiatry, 110, 406 416
  22. ^ Meehl, PE 1962 Schizotaxia, schizotypy, schizophrenia American Psychologist, 17, 827 838
  23. ^ McCreery, C and Claridge, G 2002 Healthy schizotypy: the case of out-of-the-body experiences Personality and Individual Differences, 32, 141-154
  24. ^ Kelley, MP and Coursey, RD 1992 Factor structure of schizotypy scales Personality and Invividual Differences, 13, 723-731
  25. ^ Chapman, LJ, Chapman, JP, Kwapil, TR, Eckblad, M, & Zinser, MC 1994 Putatively psychosis-prone subjects 10 years later Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 103, 171 183
  26. ^ See, for example, Beech, AR and Claridge, GS 1987 Individual differences in negative priming: Relations with schizotypal personality traits British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 78, 349-356
  27. ^ Beech, AR 1987 Cognitive Differences and Schizophrenia Unpublished DPhil thesis, University of Oxford
  28. ^ Evans, JL 1992 Schizotypy and Preconscious Processing Unpublished DPhil thesis, University of Oxford
  29. ^ Shrira, A & Tsakanikos, E 2009 Latent inhibition as a function of schizotypal symptoms: evidence for a bi-directional model Personality and Individual Differences, 47, 922-927
  30. ^ Tsakanikos, E & Claridge, G 2005 Less words, more words: psychometric schizotypy and verbal fluency Personality and Individual Differences, 39, 705-713
  31. ^ ^ Beech, AR and Claridge, GS 1987 Individual differences in negative priming: Relations with schizotypal personality traits British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 78, 349-356
  32. ^ Tsakanikos, E 2004 Logical reasoning in schizotypal personality Personality and Individual Differences, 37, 1717-1726
  33. ^ Tsakanikos, E, & Reed, P 2003 Visuo-spatial processing and dimensions of schizotypy: figure-ground segregation as a function of psychotic-like features Personality and Individual Differences, 35, 703-712
  34. ^ Tsakanikos, E & Reed, P 2005 Dimensional approaches to experimental psychopathology: shift learning and schizotypic traits in college students Journal of Behavior Therapy & Experimental Psychiatry, 36, 300-312
  35. ^ Claridge, GS 1967 Personality and Arousal Oxford: Pergamon
  36. ^ Claridge, GS and Clark, KH 1982 Covariation between two flash threshold and skin conductance level in first breakdown schizophrenics: Relationships in drug free patients and effects of treatment Psychiatry Research, 6, 371 380
  37. ^ Claridge, GS and Birchall, PMA 1978 Bishop, Eysenck, Block and psychoticism Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 87, 664 668
  38. ^ Claridge, GS, Robinson, DL and Birchall, PMA 1985 Psychophysiological evidence of `psychoticism' in schizophrenics' relatives Personality and Individual Differences, 6, 1 10
  39. ^ McCreery, C, and Claridge, G 1996 ‘A study of hallucination in normal subjects – II Electrophysiological data’ Personality and Individual Differences, 21, 749-758
  40. ^ Oswald, I 1962 Sleeping and Waking: Physiology and Psychology Amsterdam: Elsevier
  41. ^ McCreery, C 1997 Hallucinations and arousability: pointers to a theory of psychosis In Claridge, G ed: Schizotypy, Implications for Illness and Health Oxford: Oxford University Press
  42. ^ McCreery, C 2008 Dreams and psychosis: a new look at an old hypothesis Psychological Paper No 2008-1 Oxford: Oxford Forum Also available online: McCreery 2008
  43. ^ Chapman, LJ, Chapman, JP and Raulin, ML 1978 Body image aberration in schizophrenia Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 87, 399 407
  44. ^ Eckblad, M and Chapman, LJ 1986 Development and validation of a scale for hypomanic personality Journal of Abnormal Personality, 95, 217 233
  45. ^ Stevens, JM and Darbyshire, AJ 1958 Shifts along the alert-repose continuum during remission of catatonic `stupor' with amobarbitol Psychosomatic Medicine, 20, 99-107
  46. ^ Kapur, S 2003 Psychosis as a state of aberrant salience: a framework linking biology, phenomenology, and pharmacology in schizophrenia American Journal of Psychiatry,160, 13–23
  47. ^ Tsakanikos, E 2004 Latent inhibition, visual pop-out and schizotypy: is disruption of latent inhibition due to enhanced stimulus saliencePersonality and Individual Differences, 37, 1347-1358

Further readingedit

  • Claridge, G 1997 Schizotypy: Implications for Illness and Health Oxford University Press ISBN 0-19-852353-X
  • Lenzenweger, MF 2010" Schizotypy and Schizophrenia: The View from Experimental Psychopathology" Guilford Press, New York ISBN 978-1-60623-865-3

schizotypy, schizotypy and schizophrenia, schizotypy creativity, schizotypy meaning, schizotypy pronunciation, schizotypy screening, schizotypy spectrum, schizotypy symptoms, schizotypy test, schizotypy traits

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