[Paleopsych] Science Daily: Mildly Depressed People More Perceptive Than Others

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Mildly Depressed People More Perceptive Than Others

    Source: Queen's University
      Date: 2005-11-22

Mildly Depressed People More Perceptive Than Others

    Surprisingly, people with mild depression are actually more tuned into
    the feelings of others than those who aren't depressed, a team of
    Queen's psychologists has discovered.

    "This was quite unexpected because we tend to think that the opposite
    is true," says lead researcher Kate Harkness. "For example, people
    with depression are more likely to have problems in a number of social

    The researchers were so taken aback by the findings, they decided to
    replicate the study with another group of participants. The second
    study produced the same results: People with mild symptoms of
    depression pay more attention to details of their social environment
    than those who are not depressed.

    Their report on what is known as "mental state decoding" - or
    identifying other people's emotional states from social cues such as
    eye expressions - is published today in the international journal,
    Cognition and Emotion.

    Also on the research team from the Queen's Psychology Department are
    Professors Mark Sabbagh and Jill Jacobson, and students Neeta Chowdrey
    and Tina Chen. Drs. Roumen Milev and Michela David at Providence
    Continuing Care Centre, Mental Health Services, collaborated on the
    study as well.

    Previous related research by the Queen's investigators has been
    conducted on people diagnosed with clinical depression. In this case,
    the clinically depressed participants performed much worse on tests of
    mental state decoding than people who weren't depressed.

    To explain the apparent discrepancy between those with mild and
    clinical depression, the researchers suggest that becoming mildly
    depressed (dysphoric) can heighten concern about your surroundings.
    "People with mild levels of depression may initially experience
    feelings of helplessness, and a desire to regain control of their
    social world," says Dr. Harkness. "They might be specially motivated
    to scan their environment in a very detailed way, to find subtle
    social cues indicating what others are thinking and feeling."

    The idea that mild depression differs from clinical depression is a
    controversial one, the psychologist adds. Although it is often viewed
    as a continuum, she believes that depression may also contain
    thresholds such as the one identified in this study. "Once you pass
    the threshold, you're into something very different," she says.

    Funding for this study comes from a New Opportunities Grant from the
    Canada Foundation for Innovation.

    Editor's Note: The original news release can be found [3]here.

    This story has been adapted from a news release issued by Queen's


    2. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/11/051121164438.htm
    3. http://qnc.queensu.ca/story_loader.php?id=4381d1aa783bb

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