Background: Digital tools may help to address social deficits in schizophrenia, particularly those that engage social comparison processes (ie, evaluating oneself relative to others). Yet, little is known about social comparison processes in schizophrenia or how best to capture between- versus within-person variability, which is critical to engaging comparisons in digital interventions. Objective: The goals of this pilot study were to (1) better understand affective responses to social comparisons among individuals with schizophrenia, relative to healthy controls, using a validated global self-report measure; and (2) test a new brief, mobile assessment of affective responses to social comparison among individuals with schizophrenia, relative to the full measure. This study was conducted in 2 phases. Methods: We first compared self-reported affective responses to social comparisons between individuals with schizophrenia (n=39) and healthy controls (n=38) using a traditional self-report measure, at 2 time points. We examined the temporal stability in responses and differences between groups. We then evaluated the performance of brief, mobile assessment of comparison responses among individuals with schizophrenia, completed over 12 weeks (n=31). Results: Individuals with schizophrenia showed greater variability in affective responses to social comparison than controls on traditional measures and completed an average of 7.46 mobile assessments over 12 weeks. Mobile assessments captured within-person variability in affective responses in the natural environment (intraclass correlation coefficients of 0.40-0.60). Average scores for mobile assessments were positively correlated with responses to traditional measures. Conclusions: Affective responses to social comparison vary both between and within individuals with schizophrenia and capturing this variability via smartphone surveys shows some evidence of feasibility. As affective variability is a potential indicator of poor outcomes among individuals with mental health conditions, in the future, a brief, mobile assessment of affective responses to social comparisons may be useful for screening among individuals with schizophrenia. Further research on this process is needed to identify when specific comparison messaging may be most effective in digital interventions and could suggest new therapeutic targets for illnesses such as schizophrenia.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Health Informatics
- Medicine (miscellaneous)