Major depressive disorder is frequently associated with disrupted relationships with spouses, partners, family and peers. These problems can precipitate the onset of clinical illness, influence severity and the prospects for treatment and recovery. Here, we investigated whether individuals who have recovered from depression use interpersonal signals to form favourable appraisals of others as social partners. Twenty recovered-depressed adults (with at least two adult episodes of major depressive disorder but euthymic and medication-free for six months) and twenty three healthy, never-depressed adults completed a reaction time task in which the gaze direction of some faces reliably cued the location a target (valid faces), whereas the gaze direction of other faces cued the opposite spatial location (invalid faces). None of the participants were aware of this contingency. Following this task, participants judged the trustworthiness of the faces. Both the recovered-depressed and healthy never-depressed participants were significantly faster to categorise targets following valid compared with invalid gaze cueing faces. Whereas the healthy never-depressed participants judged the valid faces to be significantly more trustworthy than the invalid faces; this implicit social appraisal was absent in the recovered-depressed participants. Individuals who have recovered from major depressive disorder are able to respond appropriately to joint attention with other people but appear to not use joint attention to form implicit trust appraisals of others as potential social partners.
- joint attention
- social cognition