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Conscious Cogn. 2011 Sep;20(3):703-11. doi: 10.1016/j.concog.2010.12.004. Epub 2011 Apr 2.

Impaired ability to give a meaning to personally significant events in patients with schizophrenia.

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Hôpitaux Universitaires de Strasbourg, Clinique Psychiatrique, Hôpital Civil, 1 Place de l'Hôpital, Université de Strasbourg, Faculté de Médecine, INSERM U666, Strasbourg Cedex, France.


Schizophrenia is a severe mental illness affecting sense of identity. Autobiographical memory deficits observed in schizophrenia could contribute to this altered sense of identity. The ability to give a meaning to personally significant events (meaning making) is also critical for identity construction and self-coherence. Twenty-four patients with schizophrenia and 24 control participants were asked to recall five self-defining memories. We assessed meaning making in participants' narratives (spontaneous meaning making) and afterwards asked them explicitly to give a meaning to their memories (cued meaning making). We found that both spontaneous and cued meaning making were impaired in patients with schizophrenia. This impairment was correlated with executive dysfunctions and level of negative symptoms. Our results suggest that patients' difficulties in drawing lessons about past experiences could contribute to explain the lack of coherence observed in their life trajectories and their impaired social adjustment abilities. Implications for psychotherapy are also discussed.

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