Misclassification and Identification of Emotional Facial Expressions in Depressed Youth: A Preliminary Study

Jessica L. Jenness, Benjamin L. Hankin, Jami F. Young, Brandon E. Gibb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Accurate processing of social and affective cues, especially facial cues, is important for human adaptation. Previous studies have examined depressed adults’ sensitivity to identify emotional facial expressions, yet only one study has investigated this in depressed youth. In addition, very little is known about whether depressed individuals exhibit biases when incorrectly labeling, or misclassifying, emotional expressions. Therefore, this preliminary study explored whether sensitivity to, or misclassification of, emotional facial expressions differed among currently depressed youth, those with a history of depression, and never-depressed control participants. A community sample of 280 youth (7–16 years; M = 11.51, SD = 2.44; 56% girls) completed a forced-choice emotion identification task consisting of a series of randomly presented facial images that morphed an emotional expression (angry, happy, and sad) with a neutral expression in 10% increments (e.g., 10% sad/90% neutral; 20% sad/80% neutral). Findings demonstrated that currently depressed were more likely than remitted and never-depressed youth to misclassify happy and sad facial expressions as angry. No depression group differences were found in sensitivity to identify emotional expressions. Results suggest that currently depressed youth show biased perceptions of threat, which may contribute to the maintenance of their depressive symptoms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)559-565
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 4 2015
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology


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