Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Fall 2015

Document Type

Thesis

Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

June Gruber

Second Advisor

Mark Whisman

Third Advisor

Paul Gordon

Abstract

Bipolar disorder (BD) is a chronic psychiatric disorder that is associated with heightened and persistent positive emotion (Gruber, 2011; Johnson, 2005). Yet we know less about how troubled emotion responding may translate into dynamic face-to-face interactions involving others, especially in contexts where automatic social regulation of personal distance from others is key to maintaining social boundaries. Using a novel distance paradigm adapted from prior work (Adolphs et al., 2009) participants with a history of bipolar I disorder (BD; n = 30) and healthy controls (CTL; n = 31) provided online measurements of social distance preferences in response to positive, negative and neutral human target images, as well as subsequent social judgment and emotion perception ratings. Results suggest that the BD and CTL group did not differ on social distance or social judgment ratings. However, the BD group reported increased specific positive emotion perceptions (i.e., joy) to negative and positive faces compared to the CTL group. These findings contribute to a growing literature on emotion disturbances observed in BD that suggest a tendency to seek out more proximal social interactions, which may be explained by overly positive biases in emotional perception of others, specifically relevant to high arousal positive emotion and social cues.