Mood-Related Negative Bias in Response to Affective Stimuli in Patients with Major Depression


Background: The study focuses on the type and degree of impairment in the processing of affective faces and scenes in patients afflicted with major depression (MD). We investigated effects of emotional traits, gender, depression severity, and cognitive performance. Method: Thirty MD patients (15 men, 15 women) and 30 healthy controls were presented with pictures of emotional facial expressions and affective scenes. They were asked to estimate the intensity and allocation of the emotions expressed by the faces as well as the elicited emotions by the scenes. Results: MD patients showed a broad impairment of emotion recognition. Patients’ responses to happy faces suggested a negativity bias, which also became evident in the perception of emotional scenes. The negativity bias was stronger in male than female patients. Depression severity was negatively related to experience of happiness. Patient’s lower cognitive performance was associated with allocation accuracy of angry and disgusted faces. Conclusions: Our findings show accordance with the mood-congruency hypothesis. Depression treatment should put increased focus to the association between negative mood bias and social functioning.

Share and Cite:

Ille, R. , Hofmann, P. , Ebner, C. and Kapfhammer, H. (2013) Mood-Related Negative Bias in Response to Affective Stimuli in Patients with Major Depression. Open Journal of Depression, 2, 64-71. doi: 10.4236/ojd.2013.24012.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] American Psychiatric Association (APA) (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed.).Washington DC: Author.
[2] Angst, J., Gamma, A., Gastpar, M., Lepine, J. P., Mendlewicz, J., & Tylee, A. (2002). Gender differences in depression. Epidemiological findings from the European DEPRES I and II studies. European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience, 252, 20-29.
[3] Asthana, H. S., Mandal, M. K., Khurana, H., & Haque-Nizamie, S. (1998). Visuospatial and affect recognition deficit in depression. Journal of Affective Disorders, 48, 57-62.
[4] Bower, G. H. (1981). Mood and memory. American Psychologist, 36, 129-148.
[5] Bylsma, L. M., Morris, B. H., & Rottenberg, J. (2008). A meta-analysis of emotional reactivity in major depressive disorder. Clinical Psychology Review, 28, 676-691.
[6] Cellerino, A., Borghetti, D., & Sartucci, F. (2004). Sex differences in face gender recognition in humans. Brain Research Bulletin, 63, 443-449.
[7] Csukly, G., Czobor, P., Simon, L., & Takács, B. (2008). Basic emotions and psychological distress: Association between recognition of facial expressions and symptom checklist-90 subscales. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 49, 177-183.
[8] Drevets, W. C. (2001). Neuroimaging and neuropathological studies of depression: Implications for the cognitive-emotional features of mood disorders. Current Opinion in Neurobiology, 11, 240-249.
[9] Du, S., & Martinez, A. M. (2013). Wait, are you sad or angry? Large exposure time differences required for the categorization of facial expressions of emotion. Journal of Vision, 13, 1-14.
[10] Ekman, P., & Friesen, W. V. (1976). Pictures of facial affect. Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychological Press.
[11] Hale, W. W. (1998). Judgment of facial expressions and depression persistence. Psychiatry Research, 80, 265-274.
[12] Hautzinger, M., Bailer, M., Worall, H., & Keller, F. (1994). Beck-Depressionis-Inventar (BDI). Testhandbuch (2nd ed.). Bern: Hans Huber.
[13] Ihl, R., Grass-Kapanke, B., Lahrem, P., Brinkmeyer, J., Fischer, S., & Gaab, N. (2000). Development and validation of a test for early diagnosis of dementia with differentiation from depression (TFDD). Fortschritte der Neurologie—Psychiatrie, 68, 413-422.
[14] Johnston, P. J., Katsikitis, M., & Carr, V. J. (2001). A generalised deficit can account for problems in facial emotion recognition in schizophrenia. Biological Psychology, 58, 203-227.
[15] Kockler, M., & Heun, R. (2002). Gender differences of depressive symptoms in depressed and non-depressed elderly persons. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 17, 65-72.
[16] Kring, A. M., & Gordon, A. H. (1998). Sex differences in emotion: Expression, experience, and physiology. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74, 686-703.
[17] Lang, P. J., Bradley, M., & Cuthbert, B. (2001). International affective picture system. Center for research in psychophysiology. Gainsville, Florida: University of Florida.
[18] Laux, L., Glanzmann, P., & Spielberger, C. D. (1981). State Trait Angstinventar (STAI). Weinheim: Beltz Testgesellschaft.
[19] Lepp?nen, J. M., Milders, M., Bell, J. S., Terriere, E., & Hietanen, J. K. (2004). Depression biases the recognition of emotionally neutral faces. Psychiatry Research, 128, 123-133.
[20] Lundquist, D., Flykt, A., & Öhman, A. (1998). The Karolinska directed emotional faces of emotion and attention. Lawrence, Stockholm: Karolinska Hospital.
[21] Margraf, J. (1994). Mini-DIPS—Diagnostisches Kurz-interview bei psychischen Störungen. Berlin, Heidelberg, New York: Springer.
[22] Mendlewicz, L., Linkowski, P., Bazelmans, C., & Philippot, P. (2005). Decoding emotional facial expressions in depressed and anorexic patients. Journal of Affective Disorders, 89, 195-199.
[23] Mikhailova, E. S., Vladimirova, T. V., Iznak, A. F., Tsusulkovskaya, E. J., & Sushko, N. V. (1996). Abnormal recognition of facial expression of emotions in depressed patients with major depression disorder and Schizotypal personality disorder. Biological Psychiatry, 40, 697-705.
[24] Milders, M., Bell, S., Platt, J., Serrano, R., & Runcie, O. (2010). Stable expression recognition abnormalities in unipolar depression. Psychiatry Research, 179, 38-42.
[25] Persad, S. M., & Polivy, J. (1993). Differences between depressed and nondepressed individuals in the recognition of and response to facial emotional cues. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 102, 358-368.
[26] Rottenberg, J. (2005). Mood and emotion in major depression. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 14, 167-170.
[27] Rottenberg, J. (2007). Major depressive disorder: Emerging evidence for emotion context insensitivity. In J. Rottenberg, & S. L. Johnson (Eds.), Emotion and psychopathology: Bridging affective and clinical science. Washington DC: American Psychological Society.
[28] Rottenberg, J., Gross, J. J., & Gotlib, I. H. (2005). Emotion context insensitivity in major depressive disorder. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 114, 627-639.
[29] Rutz, W., W?linder, J., Von Knorring, L., Rihmer, Z., & Pihlgren, H. (1997). Prevention of depression and suicide by education and medication: Impact of male suicidality. An update of the Gotland study. International Journal of Psychiatry in Clinical Practice, 1, 39-46.
[30] Scheibe, S., Preuschhof, C., Cristi, C., & Bagby, R. M. (2003). Are there gender differences in major depression and its response to antidepressants? Journal of Affective Disorders, 75, 223-235.
[31] Schienle, A., Stark, R., Walter, B., Blecker, C., Ott, U., & Sammer, G. (2002b). The insula is not specifically involved in disgust processing: An fMRI study. Neuroreport, 13, 2023-2026.
[32] Schienle, A., Walter, B., Stark, R., & Vaitl, D. (2002a). A questionnaire for the assessment of disgust sensitivity. Zeitschrift für Klinische Psychologie und Psychotherapie, 31, 110-120.
[33] Schwenkmezger, P., Hodapp, V., & Spielberger, C. D. (1992). State-trait?rgerausdrucksinventar STAXI. Bern: Huber.
[34] Surguladze, S. A., Young, A. W., Senior, C., Brebion, G., Travis, M. J., & Phillips, M. L. (2004). Recognition accuracy and response bias to happy and sad facial expressions in patients with major depression. Neuropsychology, 18, 212-218.
[35] Tranter, R., Bell, D., Gutting, P., Harmer, C., Healy, D., & Anderson, I. M. (2009). The effect of serotonergic and noradrenergic antidepressants on face emotion processing in depressed patients. Journal of Affective Disorders, 118, 87-93.
[36] Van Overveld, W. J. M., DeJong, P. J., Peters, M. L., Cavanagh, K., & Davey, G. C. L. (2006). Disgust propensity and disgust sensitivity: Separate constructs that are differentially related to specific fears. Personality and Individual Differences, 41, 1241-1252.
[37] Winkler, D., Pjrek, E., & Kasper, S. (2005). Anger attacks in depresssion—Evidence for a male depressive syndrome. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, 74, 303-307.

Copyright © 2024 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.