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19-03-2020 | ORIGINAL PAPER | Uitgave 6/2020 Open Access

Mindfulness 6/2020

Modification of Attentional Bias to Emotional Faces Following Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy in People with a Current Depression

Mindfulness > Uitgave 6/2020
Paweł Holas, Izabela Krejtz, Katarzyna Wisiecka, Marzena Rusanowska, John B. Nezlek
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The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s12671-020-01353-2) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) is an evidence-based treatment to prevent relapse in individuals with recurrent major depressive disorder (MDD). It is not clear if MBCT is an effective therapy for current depression, and it is not clear what mechanisms are responsible for the effectiveness of MBCT. Theoretically, MBCT is believed to modify the processing of emotional information and reduce cognitive vulnerability to depression; however, it is not clear if MBCT leads to normalization of attentional biases in depressed individuals. The aim of the current study was to determine if MBCT can modify some of the attentional biases underlying depression in MDD.


Participants were 53 individuals with diagnosis of current MDD. They were randomly assigned to either MBCT (n = 25) or wait list control group (n = 28) condition. Before and after the 8-week MBCT intervention participants completed the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression scale (CESD), they viewed slides presenting sad, angry, happy, and neutral facial expressions, and their eye movements were recorded during the viewing task.


As expected, compared to participants in the control group, the CESD scores of participants who received MBCT decreased following treatment, their attention to sad faces decreased, and their attention to happy faces increased. Moreover, cross-lagged analysis suggested a causal link from changes in attentional bias to changes in depression.


We found that MBCT can modify the attentional processing of emotional facial stimuli and that attentional bias modification may translate into clinical improvement in currently depressed individuals.

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