Self-focused attention in depression : a study of ad libitum viewing behavior
Previous research has demonstrated that depressed individuals tend to exhibit increased levels of self-focused attention relative to non-depressed individuals. However, these studies have examined only how depression increases self-focused cognition, without investigating how these thoughts are manifested in behavior. This study was designed to determine whether behavioral responses to external, self-relevant stimuli are consistent with findings of elevated attention towards the self in individuals with high levels of depressive symptoms. In the current study, we used an ad libitum viewing task, in which participants progressed through a series of images one at a time at their own pace, to examine behavior. Participants (N = 63) completed two ad libitum viewing tasks of various images that included images of each participant’s own face. The first ad libitum viewing task took place before a sad mood induction, and the second one took place after a sad mood induction. We found a significant, positive correlation between depressive symptoms and self-focused attention, which we measured as the amount of time spent viewing images of one’s own face. We also predicted that depressive symptoms would be negatively correlated with the ability to repair mood following the sad mood induction, but this hypothesis was not supported.
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