July 29, 2020 9:40:37 pm
Teenagers who tend to pay increased attention to sad faces are more likely to develop depression, specifically within the context of stress, suggested new research.
The study by researchers from Binghamton University, State University of New York, which examined attentional biases to emotional stimuli, via eye tracking found it to be a marker of the risk of depression in teenagers.
“Although previous studies from the lab have examined who is most likely to show biased attention to sad faces and whether attention to sad faces is associated with risk for depression, the current study is the first to look at whether these attention biases impact how teenagers respond to stress, both in the lab and in the real world,” study author Cope Feurer was quoted as saying by Science Daily.
The study examined the impact of adolescents’ sustained attention to facial displays of emotion on individual differences in both mood reactivity to real-world stress and physiological reactivity to a laboratory-based stressor. Consistent with vulnerability-stress models of attention, greater sustained attention to sad faces was associated with greater depressive reactions to real-world stress.
“If a teenager has a tendency to pay more attention to negative stimuli, then when they experience something stressful they are likely to have a less adaptive response to this stress and show greater increases in depressive symptoms,” said Feurer. “For example, if two teenagers both have a fight with a friend and one teenager spends more time paying attention to negative stimuli (i.e., sad faces) than the other, then that teenager may show greater increases in depressive symptoms in response to the stressor, potentially because they are paying more attention to the stressor and how the stressor makes them feel,” the author added.
“Basically, if the brain has difficulty controlling how strongly a teenager responds to emotions, this makes it harder for them to look away from negative stimuli and their attention gets ‘stuck’,” Feurer further said.
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