In a Thought Police kind of way, a new computer program can detect depression through your online writing.

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Researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, in Beer-Sheva, Israel, have developed a program that detects depression in text without obvious terms like “depression” or “suicide”.

In a sample of 200 positively identified texts out of 300,000 which were screened by the program, there was a 78 percent agreement between the program and a panel of psychologists.

The researchers foresee the program being used to proactively screen people for depression after which a psychologist can make a definitive diagnosis.

They even suggest pop-up warnings for comments which contain a depressive pattern. However, so far no efforts have been made to actually correlate the program’s judgment with the mental state of the writers.

The findings will be presented later this year at the 2010 IEEE/WIC/ACM International Conference on Web Intelligence and Intelligent Agency Technology.

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