- Background Impairments in social behavior and cognition, such as the ability to identify others’ emotional state, are important features in schizophrenia. Arginine vasopressin (AVP) and oxytocin (OXT) and are nonapeptides that influence social cognition and behavior. Previous studies have shown that the administration of intranasal AVP or OXT may affect the ability to recognize facial emotions. The primary objective of this study was to investigate the effects of a single dose of AVP or OXT on social cognition in patients with schizophrenia. The secondary objective of the study was to test for sex-specific effects of intranasal AVP and OXT administration on social cognition. Methods In this double-blind, placebo-control, cross-over study, 34 patients diagnosed with schizophrenia or schizo-affective disorder, received a dose of AVP, OXT or placebo in three separate meetings. Forty-five minutes after administration, subjects performed facial emotion recognition tasks. Results There were no significant main effects of hormone administration on the ability to recognize facial emotions between treatment conditions. However, AVP administration resulted in sex-specific differences in emotion recognition. Specifically, in men, AVP administration reduced the ability to recognize angry faces. In women, AVP administration reduced the ability to recognize sad faces and improved the ability to recognize fearful faces. Conclusions These findings indicate that intranasal AVP may affect the recognition of facial emotions differently in men and women. Thus, AVP may increase the differences between men and women on social cognition.