Hypomanic trait is associated with a hypovigilant automatic attentional response to social cues of danger


  • The authors of this paper do not have any commercial associations that might pose a conflict of interest in connection with this manuscript.

Peter Putman, Department of Psychology, Leiden University, Wassenaarseweg 52, Postbus 9555, 2300 RB Leiden, The Netherlands. Fax: +31 71 527 4678; e-mail: pputman@fsw.leidenuniv.nl


Objectives:  Hypomania in bipolar disorders is characterized by disinhibited, fearless and reward-seeking behavior. This behavioral pattern suggests that early and automatic responding to socio-emotional cues such as facial expressions might be aberrant in hypomania. The present study tested the predictions that participants selected on hypomania-like trait would show hypovigilant responses to facial cues of danger and increased responses to facial cues of reward.

Methods:  From a group of 513, the 16 most trait-hypomanic individuals were selected by use of a shortened version of an established self-report instrument, the General Behavior Inventory (GBI). Their spatial-attentional responses after perception of dynamic fearful and happy facial gaze cues were compared with those of 12 controls.

Results:  The group difference for full GBI hypomania scores was reliable (p = 0.000). Individuals with elevated hypomanic traits clearly demonstrated attentional hypovigilance after perception of fearful, laterally gazing faces (p = 0.009). In addition, unlike controls, they demonstrated reliable attentional responding to happy gaze cues (p = 0.007).

Conclusions:  These data provide the first experimental evidence that hypomania-like trait is associated with hypovigilant, fearless responding to the social cue of an emotionally expressive gaze.