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Examining the relationship between lateralisation for processing emotional faces, depression, and sex

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It is now relatively well established that the right hemisphere is specialised for processing facial emotion; however, there is variability in this pattern of lateralisation. One factor that has been examined is atypical lateralisation in individuals diagnosed with clinical psychological conditions. To date the evidence regarding the neuropsychological processing of emotional stimuli in individuals with depression is contradictory. In this study 160 participants completed the Beck Depression Inventory and the chimeric faces test, a test of lateralisation for the processing of facial expressions of each of the six basic emotions. A negative relationship between depression and lateralisation was found for females only, showing that women with higher depression scores tend to be less strongly lateralised to the right hemisphere, or even lateralised to the left hemisphere, for processing facial emotion. The strength of this relationship also varied across the different emotions with the clearest results for the processing of anger, disgust, and fear. There were no significant findings for males. The possible reasons for there being a sex difference in our findings and an attempt to reconcile the disparate findings within this area of research are discussed.
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Keywords: Chimeric faces; Depression; Emotion lateralisation; Sex differences

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Psychology, Royal Holloway, University of London, Egham, UK 2: Institute of Psychiatry, King's College, University of London, London, UK

Publication date: December 1, 2013

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