Affective priming in major depressive disorder.

Research paper by Joelle J Lemoult, K Lira KL Yoon, Jutta J Joormann

Indexed on: 13 Oct '12Published on: 13 Oct '12Published in: Frontiers in integrative neuroscience


Research on cognitive biases in depression has provided considerable evidence for the impact of emotion on cognition. Individuals with depression tend to preferentially process mood-congruent material and to show deficits in the processing of positive material leading to biases in attention, memory, and judgments. More research is needed, however, to fully understand which cognitive processes are affected. The current study further examines the impact of emotion on cognition using a priming design with facial expressions of emotion. Specifically, this study tested whether the presentation of facial expressions of emotion affects subsequent processing of affective material in participants with major depressive disorder (MDD) and healthy controls (CTL). Facial expressions displaying happy, sad, angry, disgusted, or neutral expressions were presented as primes for 500 ms, and participants' speed to identify a subsequent target's emotional expression was assessed. All participants displayed greater interference from emotional vs. neutral primes, marked by slower response times to judge the emotion of the target face when it was preceded by an emotional prime. Importantly, the CTL group showed the strongest interference when happy emotional expressions served as primes whereas the MDD group failed to show this bias. These results add to a growing literature that shows that depression is associated with difficulties in the processing of positive material.