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Depression brings with it a wide variety range of symptoms. One of the least studied symptoms in depression is an impairment in the ability to recognize the emotions on the faces of others. Previous literature has shown both that many people without diagnosed depression still display some depressive symptoms as well as that the impairments in emotion recognition are an extremely common symptom. These impairments are frequently associated with an increase in the severity of other symptoms, which makes their presence in subclinical populations especially important to uncover. In this proposed study, 400 students who don’t meet the diagnostic criteria for depression would be tested on their ability to detect emotion (happiness and sadness) in rapidly presented, masked images of faces. Their detection accuracy would then be compared to their scores on the Beck Depression Inventory II. Subjects will score in the lowest range of scores of the BDI-II; from 0-13 (which is the “minimal depression” range of scores on the BDI-II) since higher scores would prevent them from participating in the study.
A negative monotonic relationship is predicted between subjects’ ability to detect emotions (measured using d prime, a measure of discriminability), and their self-reported scores of depressive symptoms on the BDI-II. This predicted pattern of results is consistent with the idea that there is a causal relationship between emotion recognition impairments and the development of more severe depressive symptoms. Although this study is designed to show that the impairments exist in a subclinical population rather than prove causality, it may help direct future studies towards researching this connection in order to more accurately identify people at risk for clinical depression.
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Leighton, Charles Hale, "Facial Emotion Recognition Impairments in Subclinical Depression" (2017). Senior Projects Spring 2017. 326.