Explicit and Implicit Processing of Facial Expressions in Depression



The effect of negative bias in information processing in persons with depression is widely discussed in the literature. This perception bias is viewed as a possible mechanisms of the overall emotional decrease in patients with depression. However, most studies in this area were conducted using explicit processing of emotionogenic information. The results were ambiguous and sometimes showed the effects of positive bias in healthy respondents. In this study, an experimental design with both explicit and implicit processing of emotional stimuli was implemented. The face images of negative and neutral valence were shown in groups of healthy respondents and patients with depression. Among 106 participants there were 57 patients with moderate depression. The participants were presented with images of faces with neutral or angry expressions (Lundqvist et al., 1998) and instructed to count their number based on emotional valence in the explicit condition, or gender in the implicit condition (De Lyssnyder et al., 2012). A comparison of processing time by group, valence and task, showed complementary effects in tasks with explicit process- ing. The patients with depression took longer to process negative stimuli, and the healthy participants spent more time processing neutral stimuli. In the implicit processing condition, the healthy respondents did not display any significant differences in processing times for negative and neutral images, while the patients were still fixating on negative images. However, after statistically controlling the age-related effects, these differences were reduced to a strong fixation on neutral faces during explicit processing in the non-depressed group. The results suggest a possible preventative mechanism — preferential processing of positive information — providing protection from depressive symptoms. This view offers an alternative explanation to possible causes of depression onset in contrast with a pathogenic mechanism of fixation on negative information in patients with depression.

General Information

Keywords: face expression, depression, cognitive bias

Journal rubric: Face Science

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17759/exppsy.2021140202

Funding. The reported study was funded by Russian Science Foundation (RSF), project number 19-18-00474.

For citation: Velichkovsky B.B., Sultanova F.R., Tatarinov D.V. Explicit and Implicit Processing of Facial Expressions in Depression. Eksperimental'naâ psihologiâ = Experimental Psychology (Russia), 2021. Vol. 14, no. 2, pp. 24–36. DOI: 10.17759/exppsy.2021140202. (In Russ., аbstr. in Engl.)


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Information About the Authors

Boris B. Velichkovsky, Doctor of Psychology, Professor, Chair of Methodology of Psychology, Lomonosov Moscow State University, Professor, Chair of General Psychology, Moscow Institute of Psychoanalysis, Moscow, Russia, ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-7823-0605, e-mail: velitchk@mail.ru

Faniya R. Sultanova, Senior Lecturer, Chair of Neuro- and Pathological Psychology, Moscow State University, Moscow, Russia, ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-5776-2992, e-mail: faniya2014@gmail.com

Dmitry V. Tatarinov, Master Student, Department of Psychology, Moscow State University, Moscow, Russia, ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8458-1102, e-mail: dmitry.tatarinav@gmail.com



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