The relationship between depressive symptoms, rumination and sensitivity to emotion specified in facial expressions.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Science
In social interactions it is important for perceivers to be able to differentiate between facial expressions of emotion associated with a congruent emotional experience (genuine expressions) and those that are not (posed expressions). This research investigated the sensitivity of participants with a range of depressive symptom severity and varying levels of rumination to the differences between genuine and posed facial expressions The suggested mechanisms underlying impairments in emotion recognition were also investigated; the effect of cognitive load (as a distraction from deliberate processing of stimuli) and attention, and the relationships between mechanisms and sensitivity across a range of depressive symptoms and level of rumination. Participants completed an emotion categorisation task in which they were asked if targets were showing either happiness or sadness, and then if targets were feeling those emotions. Participants also completed the same task under cognitive load. In addition, a recognition task was used to measure attention. Results showed that when making judgements about whether targets were feeling sad lower sensitivity was related to higher levels of depressive symptoms, but contrary to predictions, only when under cognitive load. Depressive symptoms and rumination were not related to higher levels of bias towards sad expressions. Recognition did not show a relationship with sensitivity, rumination or depression scores. Cognitive load did not show the expected effects or improving sensitivity but instead showed lower sensitivity scores in some conditions compared to conditions without load. Implications of results are discussed, as well as directions for future research.