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UBC Theses and Dissertations

An examination of the relationship between attentional biases and body dissatisfaction Misener, Kaylee


There is a large body of literature supporting the presence of cognitive biases among individuals with eating disorders and body dissatisfaction. The current study extended this research by examining attentional processing of body related stimuli as a function of body dissatisfaction using eye-tracking methodology and a modified spatial cueing paradigm to evaluate early and late stage processing patterns. A sample of 197 undergraduate females completed a decision-making task involving thin, fat, and control body images while eye gaze was recorded. Reaction time analysis did not reveal a relationship between body dissatisfaction and disengagement difficulty from thin or fat body images when compared to control body images. Further, no difference between early and late stage cognitive processing was demonstrated by reaction time. However, analysis of eye gaze patterns revealed a significant relationship between body dissatisfaction and difficulty shifting visual attention away from thin body images in late stage processing only. Results did not reveal a relationship between BMI and attentional biases. The current study’s findings provide partial support for an attentional bias for thin body images in body dissatisfied individuals (R² = .02, F(1, 195) = 3.86, p = .05). Moreover, the present study provides further evidence for eye-tracking methodology as a more sensitive measure of cognitive biases than reaction time. Further examination of the relationship between cognitive biases and body dissatisfaction remains an important area of study as both are risk factors for eating disorders and can inform treatment interventions.

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