In later life, cognitive impairment is common in depression often making it difficult to distinguish a dementing illness from depression. We examined whether people with depression could be differentiated from those with dementia on their performance on a task that examines attentional bias to depression related material.
Twelve older adults who fulfilled DSM-IV criteria for major depression were compared with 12 people with Alzheimer's Disease (AD) and 12 age matched controls on a test of cognitive biases: the Emotional Stroop task. In this task participants were presented with words written in different coloured inks, and they had to name the colour the word was written in. Four types of material were presented-neutral, positive, and negative emotion words as well as a condition of meaningless symbols.
People with depression and those with AD were both slower than the controls on the task generally. However, the depressed group alone showed a statistically significant and specific increase in response time when colour naming the negative emotion words. The other two groups did not demonstrate such a pattern and colour named neutral, positive and negative words equally quickly.
The biased processing of depression related material may have a valuable role in distinguishing depression from dementia in later life. Although the Emotional Stroop in its present form is not sufficient for such a purpose. Furthermore, the demonstration that older adults with depression exhibit such biases helps provide a theoretical basis for the application of cognitive behavioural treatments with older adults.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Research has shown age-related declines in the cognitive ability to inhibit irrelevant information. Thirty-six younger adults (mean age = 22 years) and 36 older adults (mean age = 74 years) performed 2 versions of an emotional Stroop task. In one, they made lexical decisions to emotion words spoken in 1 of several tones of voice. Latencies were longer for test words spoken in an incongruent tone of voice, but only for older adults. In another, words were displayed on a computer screen in a colored font, and participants quickly named the font color. Latencies were longer for test words high on arousal, but only for older adults. Results are discussed in terms of inhibitory cognitive processes, attention, and theories of emotional development.
Psychology and Aging 10/2004; 19(3):523-35. DOI:10.1037/0882-79188.8.131.523 · 2.73 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: There is an extensive amount of literature utilising the emotional Stroop task (EST) to investigate attentional processes underlying a range of psychological conditions. Relatively fewer studies have specifically examined the impact of different Stroop stimuli presentation methods (i.e., blocked or mixed presentation of words). The aim of this study was to directly investigate this issue using an online version of the task. After an initial practice trial, 117 Psychology students (19 Male, 98 Female) were randomly allocated to either a random or counterbalanced blocked condition. Demographic information and level of psychological distress (K10) were also collected. Results indicated that there were no significant differences between blocked and random conditions on attentional interference. Further analysis indicated that random presentation produced significantly higher levels of response latencies to emotional words in participants with high levels of psychological distress. These data add to the methodological debate surrounding the use of blocked vs. random presentation of Stroop stimuli. Implications of these results for assessing control and clinical groups using the EST are discussed.
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