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Depress Res Treat. 2012;2012:249030. doi: 10.1155/2012/249030. Epub 2012 Jan 11.

Recognition of facial expressions in individuals with elevated levels of depressive symptoms: an eye-movement study.

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  • 1Departments of Psychology, Biological Psychology, Clinical Psychology, and Psychotherapy, University of Würzburg, Marcusstraße 9-11, 97070 Würzburg, Germany.


Previous studies consistently reported abnormal recognition of facial expressions in depression. However, it is still not clear whether this abnormality is due to an enhanced or impaired ability to recognize facial expressions, and what underlying cognitive systems are involved. The present study aimed to examine how individuals with elevated levels of depressive symptoms differ from controls on facial expression recognition and to assess attention and information processing using eye tracking. Forty participants (18 with elevated depressive symptoms) were instructed to label facial expressions depicting one of seven emotions. Results showed that the high-depression group, in comparison with the low-depression group, recognized facial expressions faster and with comparable accuracy. Furthermore, the high-depression group demonstrated greater leftwards attention bias which has been argued to be an indicator of hyperactivation of right hemisphere during facial expression recognition.

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