Detection of facial expressions of emotions in depression

Percept Mot Skills. 2001 Jun;92(3 Pt 1):857-68. doi: 10.2466/pms.2001.92.3.857.


Research on perceptual and attentional processes in depression has shown that depressed as opposed to nondepressed individuals do not exhibit a positive perceptual bias in multistimulus representations. In the present study a face-in-the-crowd task was applied to examine the relationship between depression and spatial detection of facial expression of positive and negative emotions. A face-in-the-crowd task was administered to 30 subjects (15 clinically stabilized depressed inpatients and 15 normal subjects) using displays of schematic faces. Depressed subjects showed no performance differences in the detection of negative faces and no differences in decision latency for the control condition (all neutral faces) compared to normal subjects. Depressed subjects, however, were significantly slower in responding to positive faces than normal subjects. Our data suggest that depressive mood is associated with a reduced spatial attention to positive facial expression and not with an abnormal spatial processing of negative facial expression. An implication is that lowered vigilance for facial expressions of joy and happiness may affect adversely interpersonal relationships in depressed subjects.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect*
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology*
  • Face*
  • Facial Expression*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Signal Detection, Psychological*
  • Space Perception / physiology