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J Abnorm Psychol. 2007 Nov;116(4):804-9.

Impact of depression on response to comedy: a dynamic facial coding analysis.

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Department of Psychology, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15260, USA.


Individuals suffering from depression show diminished facial responses to positive stimuli. Recent cognitive research suggests that depressed individuals may appraise emotional stimuli differently than do nondepressed persons. Prior studies do not indicate whether depressed individuals respond differently when they encounter positive stimuli that are difficult to avoid. The authors investigated dynamic responses of individuals varying in both history of major depressive disorder (MDD) and current depressive symptomatology (N = 116) to robust positive stimuli. The Facial Action Coding System (Ekman & Friesen, 1978) was used to measure affect-related responses to a comedy clip. Participants reporting current depressive symptomatology were more likely to evince affect-related shifts in expression following the clip than were those without current symptomatology. This effect of current symptomatology emerged even when the contrast focused only on individuals with a history of MDD. Specifically, persons with current depressive symptomatology were more likely than those without current symptomatology to control their initial smiles with negative affect-related expressions. These findings suggest that integration of emotion science and social cognition may yield important advances for understanding depression.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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