The tasks measure the perception and interpretation of social cues, attention to emotional stimuli and memory for affective information:
Task 1: Facial Expression Recognition Task (FERT) – perception of social cues
The FERT assesses the interpretation of facial expressions. Faces with six different basic emotions (happiness, fear, anger, disgust, sadness, surprise) are displayed on the screen and participants are required to indicate the expression of the face via a button-press. Different intensity levels of each emotion are presented, which increases the ambiguity of the facial expression and the sensitivity of the task. The photographs (right) illustrate a ’fearful’ expression and the morphed facial expressions displaying different intensity levels of fearful facial expressions.
Task 2: Emotional Categorisation Task (ECAT) - attention to affective information
The ECAT assesses speed to respond to positive and negative self-referent personality descriptors. Sixty personality characteristics selected to be disagreeable (e.g. “domineering”, “untidy”, “hostile”) or agreeable (e.g. “cheerful”, “honest”, “optimistic”) are presented. The participants are asked whether they would like or dislike to be referred to as each characteristic. Depressed patients, and those at high risk of developing depression, have slower responses to positive versus negative self-referential personality descriptors.
Task 3: Faces Dot Probe Task (FDOT) - attention to affective information (emotional categorisation, dot-probe)
The FDOT assesses attention to positive versus negative stimuli using a reaction time measure. Two faces are presented vertically on the computer screen and replaced by a pair of dots, to which the participant has to respond by indicating whether the dots are vertically or horizontally aligned. On some trials, one of the two faces presented has an emotional expression (fearful or happy). The reaction time to respond to the dots can be used as a measure of attention to the emotional faces. On half of the trials, the faces are presented very briefly and immediately replaced by a jumbled face mask. This allows the assessment of very fast, automatic attention to emotional stimuli. If patients have a bias to a happy or fearful face then they will be faster to respond to a probe that appears in the same place as the face they are attending. Similarly reaction time will be slower to a probe that appears in a different place.
Task 4: Emotional Recall Task (EREC) - memory for affective information
The EREC is a surprise free recall task to assess the incidental encoding of emotional stimuli. Participants are asked to recall as many of the words previously presented in the ECAT task as they can remember. The relative recall of positive versus negative words gives a measure of emotional biases in memory. This task is not computerised (subjects write the recalled words on a sheet of paper) but the instructions and timing of the task are given by the ETB.
Task 5: Emotional Recognition Memory Task (EMEM) - memory for affective information
The EMEM measures recognition memory for affective words. Participants are presented with a series of words comprising the pleasant and unpleasant personality words that were previously presented to them in the ECAT, and a set of previously unseen distracter words. For each word, participants are required to report whether they have previously seen the word. Depressed patients, and those at high risk of developing depression, have reduced recall of positive information.