60-Second Science

Depression Decreases Retina Performance; Accents Increase Listener's Doubts

Two studies of perception: the retinas of depressed people are far worse at responding to contrast; people doubt statements more when the speaker has a foreign accent. Steve Mirsky reports.

A couple of studies on perception. First, there’s now visual data to back up the idea that everything looks kinda gray when you feel blue.

Researchers examined how the retina responds to different black-and-white contrast situations. They did the tests on healthy subjects and on patients with depression. Turns out that depressed people have much lower retinal responses—even if they’re on antidepressants. And the worse the depression, the worse the performance of the retina.

In fact, the retinal reaction alone was a good diagnostic of depression. So the world really can look blehhh to somebody who’s depressed. The research is in the journal Biological Psychiatry. [Emanuel Bubi et al,]

Study 2 looked at test subjects’ impressions of the honesty of simple factual statements made by other people. The researchers found that listeners were less likely to believe speakers with foreign accents. And the heavier the accent, the less believable they were perceived to be. The work appears in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. [Shiri Lev-Ari and Boaz Keysar,]

So our own accent preferences could affect how much we accept things we hear from reporters, eyewitnesses, job applicants, others whose accent differs from our own. Quelle domage.

–Steve Mirsky

[The above text is an exact transcript of this podcast]

Rights & Permissions
Share this Article:


You must sign in or register as a member to submit a comment.

Give a Gift &
Get a Gift - Free!

Give a 1 year subscription
as low as $9.99

Subscribe Now! >


Email this Article