Background: It has been suggested that depressed patients have a "negative bias" in recognising other people's emotions; however, the detailed structure of this negative bias is not fully understood. Objectives: To examine the ability of depressed patients to recognise emotion, using moving facial and prosodic expressions of emotion. Methods: 16 depressed patients and 20 matched (non-depressed) controls selected one basic emotion (happiness, sadness, anger, fear, surprise, or disgust) that best described the emotional state represented by moving face and prosody. Results: There was no significant difference between depressed patients and controls in their recognition of facial expressions of emotion. However, the depressed patients were impaired relative to controls in their recognition of surprise from prosodic emotions, judging it to be more negative. Conclusions: We suggest that depressed patients tend to interpret neutral emotions, such as surprise, as negative. Considering that the deficit was seen only for prosodic emotive stimuli, it would appear that stimulus clarity influences the recognition of emotion. These findings provide valuable information on how depressed patients behave in complicated emotional and social situations.
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