Emotional processing deficits in chronic cannabis use: a replication and extension

Chandni Hindocha, Olivia Wollenberg, Virginia Carter Leno, Beatriz O Alvarez, H Valerie Curran, Tom P Freeman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Citations (SciVal)


Heavy cannabis use is associated with interpersonal problems that may arise in part from the inaccurate perception of emotional faces. Only one study reports impairments in emotional facial affect processing in heavy cannabis users; however, it is not clear whether these findings were attributable to differences between cannabis users and controls in schizotypy or gender, rather than from cannabis use itself. A total of 25 frequent cannabis users and 34 non-using controls completed an emotional processing task in an independent groups design. We asked participants to identify the emotions on faces morphed from neutral to 100% intensity, for six basic emotions. We measured percentage hit rate, sensitivity and response bias. Schizotypy was indexed using the Schizotypal Personality Questionnaire. Cannabis users showed lower accuracy and sensitivity on the emotional recognition task. Gender and schizotypy did not differ between the two groups. Men showed lower accuracy on the emotional processing task, but impairments in cannabis users remained when covarying for gender. Schizotypy negatively correlated with sensitivity scores, but this was unreliable when accounting for the groups. Chronic cannabis users showed generalised impairment in emotional processing. These results appeared as independent of the emotional processing deficits amongst men, and were not related to schizotypy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)466-471
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Psychopharmacology
Issue number5
Early online date19 Mar 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2014


  • Adult
  • Cannabis/adverse effects
  • Emotions/physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Personality/physiology
  • Psychometrics
  • Recognition (Psychology)/physiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult


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