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01-12-2011 | Brief Report | Uitgave 6/2011

Cognitive Therapy and Research 6/2011

Attention to Emotional Images in Previously Depressed Individuals: An Eye-Tracking Study

Cognitive Therapy and Research > Uitgave 6/2011
Christopher R. Sears, Kristin R. Newman, Jennifer D. Ference, Charmaine L. Thomas
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Portions of these data were presented at the 20th annual meeting of the Canadian Society for Brain, Behavior, and Cognitive Science (Halifax, Nova Scotia, June 2010) and at the 72nd annual meeting of the Canadian Psychological Association (Toronto, Ontario, June 2011). The materials used in the study are available from the authors upon request.


Depression and dysphoria are associated with attention and memory biases for emotional information (Williams et al. 1997; Yiend in Cogn Emot 24:3–47, 2010), which are postulated to reflect stable vulnerability factors for the development and recurrence of depression (Gotlib and Joormann in Annu Rev Clin Psychol 6:285–312, 2010). The present study looked for evidence of attention and memory biases in individuals with a self-reported history of depression, compared to individuals with dysphoria and individuals with no history of depression. Participants viewed sets of depression-related, anxiety-related, positive, and neutral images while their eye fixations were tracked and recorded. Incidental recognition of the images was assessed 7 days later. Consistent with previous studies (Kellough et al. in Behav Res Therapy 46:1238–1243, 2008; Sears et al. in Cogn Emot 24:1349–1368, 2010), dysphoric individuals spent significantly less time attending to positive images than never depressed individuals, and it was also found that previously depressed individuals exhibited the same attentional bias. Previously depressed individuals also attended to anxiety-related images more than never depressed individuals. A bias in the initial orienting of attention was observed, with previously depressed and dysphoric individuals orienting to depression-images more frequently than never depressed participants. The recognition memory data showed that previously depressed and dysphoric individuals had poorer memory than never depressed individuals, but there was no evidence of a memory bias for either group. Implications for cognitive models of depression and depression vulnerability are discussed.

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