Seeing the big picture: Broadening attention relieves sadness and depressed mood

Li GU, Xueling YANG, Man Wai LI, Xinyue ZHOU, Ding‐Guo GAO

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9 Citations (Scopus)


We examined whether the broadened attentional scope would affect people's sad or depressed mood with two experiments, enlightened by the meaning of “seeing the big picture” and the broaden‐and‐build model. Experiment 1 (n = 164) is a laboratory‐based experiment, in which we manipulated the attentional scope by showing participants zoomed‐out or zoomed‐in scenes. In Experiment 2 (n = 44), we studied how depressed mood and positive and negative emotions were affected when participants watched distant versus proximal scenes for eight weeks in real life. Healthy participants in Experiment 1, who were induced to feel sad, could return to the baseline mood after having the broadened attention task but not after having the narrowed attention task, which indicated that immediate attention broadening manipulation could function as antidotes for the lingering effects of induced negative emotions. Participants with depressed mood in Experiment 2 showed reduced depressed mood, increased positive affect, and decreased negative affect after receiving attention broadening training compared to those receiving attention narrowing training. Our findings suggest a robust role of broadened attentional scope in relieving negative emotions and even mildly depressed mood in the long run. Copyright © 2017 Scandinavian Psychological Associations and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)324-332
JournalScandinavian Journal of Psychology
Issue number4
Early online dateJul 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017


Gu. L., Yang, X., Li, L. M. W., Zhou, X., & Gao, D.-G. (2017). Seeing the big picture: Broadening attention relieves sadness and depressed mood. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 58(4), 324-332. doi: 10.1111/sjop.12376


  • Attentional scope
  • Negative emotion
  • Broadened attention
  • Depressed mood


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