Background The ecological validity of retrospective measures of social functioning is currently unknown in patients with schizophrenia. In the present study, patients with a diagnosis of non-affective psychosis were compared with controls on two measures of social functioning: the Social Functioning Scale (SFS) and daily-life measures collected with the Experience Sampling Methodology (ESM). The associations between both measures were examined in each group of participants to test for the ecological validity of the SFS. Methods A total of 126 participants with a non-affective psychotic disorder and 109 controls completed the SFS and a 6-day momentary ESM protocol assessing various aspects of social functioning. Multiple linear and multilevel regression analyses were performed to test for group differences in social functioning level and examine associations between the two assessment techniques. Results Lower social functioning was observed in patients compared with controls on retrospective and momentary measures. The SFS interpersonal domain (social engagement/withdrawal and interpersonal behaviour dimensions) was associated with the percentage of time spent alone and negative appraisal of social interactions. The SFS activity domain (pro-social and recreational activities dimensions) was negatively associated with time spent in leisure activities. Conclusions The SFS showed some degree of ecological validity at assessing broad aspects of social functioning. Low scores on the SFS social engagement/withdrawal and interpersonal behaviour dimensions captured social isolation and social avoidance in daily life, but not lack of interest in socializing. Ecological validity of the SFS activity domain was low. ESM offers a rich alternative to classical assessment techniques of social functioning.
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