The attention you pay to people's emotions can determine whether you are at risk of depression, according to new research.
In a study published in the journal Clinical Psychological Science, researchers surveyed 160 women - 60 of whom had a previous history of depression - and asked each of them to look at two faces. One was always neutral, the other was alternatively angry, happy or sad.
The researchers used eye-tracking to see what the women were focusing on, and found those with a previous history of depression paid more attention to angry faces. They followed up the research and found the women who paid the most attention to angry faces were most at risk of developing depression again over the next two years.
Psychology professor Brandon Gibb, who worked on the study, said the implications of the research was clear. "If your attention is drawn to people who appear to be angry with you or critical of you, then you're at risk for depression."
Mary Woody, the lead author of the study, said that the finding may lead to new approaches to treating depression or preventing it such as using computer programmes to refocus people's attention on faces.
"We might be able to identify women who are at greatest risk for future depression just by something as simple as how they pay attention to different emotional expressions in their world," she added.