Social Motivation in Schizophrenia: What's Effort Got to Do With It?

Lauren T. Catalano, Michael F. Green

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background and Hypothesis: Social motivation, defined as the fundamental human desire to seek out, engage in, and maintain interpersonal bonds, has become a growing area of research in schizophrenia. The major focus has been on understanding the impact of social reward-related processes. An obvious but rarely acknowledged fact is that social interactions, much like other goal-directed acts, require the exertion of effort. In this Review Article, we argue that social motivation in schizophrenia can be conceptualized through the lens of an established framework: effort-based decision-making (EBDM). Study Design: We conducted a literature review on social reward processing in schizophrenia, then extended these findings by applying concepts and insights from the literature on EBDM to the study of social motivation. Study Results: Within the EBDM framework, decisions about whether or not to pursue social interactions are bound by cost/benefit calculations. That is, people do not pursue social behaviors when the estimated "cost"of the required effort outweighs the anticipated "benefit"or reward. We propose that people with schizophrenia are less likely to engage in social interaction compared with healthy samples because they: (1) underestimate the benefits of relationships (based on expectations of reward/punishment), (2) overestimate the effort costs associated with social interaction, and/or (3) fail to integrate cost-benefit information in an optimal manner. Conclusions: EBDM is an especially promising framework of social motivation that goes beyond the current focus on social reward processing to include a focus on effort.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1127-1137
Number of pages11
JournalSchizophrenia Bulletin
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2023
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center.


  • Schizophrenia
  • effort-based decision-making
  • social cognition
  • social effort
  • social motivation
  • social reward


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