A new study has revealed that attention to angry faces can predict future depression. Researchers at Binghamton University recruited 160 women, 60 with a past history of depression, 100 with no history of depression. They showed each woman a series of two faces, one with a neutral expression and the other with either an angry, sad or happy expression.
Using eye-tracking, they found that women with a past history of depression paid more attention to the angry faces. More importantly, among women with a history of prior depression, those who tended to look the most at the angry faces were at greatest risk for developing depression again over the next two years.
Researcher Brandon Gibb said that if your attention is drawn to people who appear to be angry with you or critical of you, then you’re at risk for depression.
Lead author Mary Wood said that the most interesting thing about this is that they followed these women for two years and the women who are paying attention to angry faces are the most likely to become depressed again, and they become depressed in the shortest amount of time. So they’re at greatest risk.
Wood added that they might be able to identify women who are at greatest risk for future depression just by something as simple as how they pay attention to different emotional expressions in their world.
It’s a very important first step in developing a new line of treatment for people who are at risk for depression and for who currently have depression, Woody noted.
Some people might be able to use this instead of traditional therapy or could use it as an adjunct to traditional treatment, Gibb added.
The study is published in Clinical Psychological Science.