Attentional bias temporal dynamics in remitted depression

Ariel Zvielli, Janna N. Vrijsen, Ernst H.W. Koster, Amit Bernstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Theory implicates attentional bias (AB) or dysregulated attentional processing of emotional information in the recurrence of major depressive episodes. However, empirical study of AB among remitted depressed patients is limited in scope and has yielded mixed findings. Mixed findings may be accounted for by how the field has conceptualized and thereby studied AB. We propose that a novel temporal dynamic process perspective on AB may help disambiguate extant findings and elucidate the nature of AB in remitted depression. Thus, we reexamined Dot Probe data among remitted depressed patients (RMD; n = 328) and nondepressed controls (NDC; n = 82) that previously yielded null effects when AB was quantified by means of the traditional aggregated mean bias score (Vrijsen et al., 2014). We reanalyzed data using a novel computational approach that extracts a series of bias estimations from trial to trial (Zvielli, Bernstein, & Koster, 2015). Key features of these dynamic process signals revealed moderate to excellent reliability relative to the traditional aggregated mean bias scores. These features of AB dynamics-specifically temporal variability in AB including AB toward and away from emotional stimuli-were significantly elevated among RMDs relative to NDCs. Moreover, among RMDs, a greater number of past depressive episodes were associated with elevation in these features of AB dynamics. Effects were not accounted for by residual depressive symptoms or social anxiety symptoms. Findings indicate that dysregulation in attentional processing of emotional information reflected in AB dynamics may be key to depression vulnerability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)768-776
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Abnormal Psychology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 American Psychological Association.


  • Attentional bias
  • Depression
  • Dynamics
  • Major depressive disorder
  • Remitted depression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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