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Open AccessArticle

Is Black Always the Opposite of White? An Investigation on the Comprehension of Antonyms in People with Schizophrenia and in Healthy Participants

Department of Biomedical, Metabolic and Neurological Sciences, University of Modena, Via Campi 287, Modena 41100, Italy
Centro Salute Mentale, Via Martiri 63, Pavullo 41126, Italy
Villa Igea Private Hospital, Via Stradella 73, Modena 41100, Italy
Department of Psychology, University of Rome, Via dei Marsi 78, Rome 00185, Italy
Centro Salute Mentale Polo Ovest, Via Newton 150, Modena 41126, Italy
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: John Coverdale
Behav. Sci. 2015, 5(1), 93-112;
Received: 18 December 2014 / Revised: 17 February 2015 / Accepted: 27 February 2015 / Published: 9 March 2015
PDF [164 KB, uploaded 9 March 2015]


The present investigation sought to expand our understanding of the cognitive processes underlying the recognition of antonyms and to evaluate whether these processes differed in patients with schizophrenia and in healthy controls. Antonymy is the most robust of the lexico-semantic relations and is relevant to both the mental organization of the lexicon and the organization of coherent discourse, as attested by the resurgence of interest in antonymy in the linguistic and psychological domains. In contrast, the vast literature on semantic processing in schizophrenia almost ignored antonymy. In this study, we tested the online comprehension of antonyms in 39 Italian patients with paranoid schizophrenia and in an equal number of pairwise-matched healthy controls. Participants read a definitional sentence fragment (e.g., the opposite of black is), followed by the correct antonym (white) or by a semantically unrelated word (nice), and judged whether or not the target word was correct. Patients were rather accurate in identifying antonyms, but compared to controls, they showed longer response times and higher priming scores, suggesting an exaggerated contextual facilitation. Presumably, this reflects a deficient controlled semantic processing and an overreliance on stored semantic representations. View Full-Text
Keywords: paranoid schizophrenia; language comprehension; antonym; semantic relationship paranoid schizophrenia; language comprehension; antonym; semantic relationship

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Cacciari, C.; Pesciarelli, F.; Gamberoni, T.; Ferlazzo, F.; Russo, L.L.; Pedrazzi, F.; Melati, E. Is Black Always the Opposite of White? An Investigation on the Comprehension of Antonyms in People with Schizophrenia and in Healthy Participants. Behav. Sci. 2015, 5, 93-112.

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