AUSTIN, Texas—When presented with a series of photographs ranging from neutral to distressing, people who are depressed spend more time focused on negative images, according to research at The University of Texas at Austin.
Christopher Beevers, assistant professor of psychology, uses a state-of-the-art eye tracking system to record people’s gaze and analyze how their brain processes visual information.
Beevers presented a series of 12 slides to research participants. For 10 seconds, they viewed each of the slides that contained images in four categories: threatening, distressing, positive or neutral.
The results revealed a bias in depressed people’s cognition, or how their brain processes information.
When negative, positive and neutral images were presented simultaneously, depressed individuals focused on negative ones. Specifically, they initially focused more attention on the threatening images, and then turned their attention toward the distressing images. People who were not depressed did not display this bias.
More than 13 million people have depression in the United States. Beevers’ clinical research supports cognitive theories of depression that suggest the condition is maintained, in part, by a bias in the brain to process negative information.
Beevers will present his findings, "Bias Is in the Eye of the Beholder: Information Processing and Clinical Depression," as part a panel on depression and suicide at the Association for Psychological Science convention Sunday, May 27, in Washington, D.C.
For more information contact: Christopher Beevers, assistant professor, Department of Psychology, 512-232-3706; Christian Clarke Casarez, director of public affairs, College of Liberal Arts, 512-471-4945.