The effect of fasting on attentional biases for food and body shape/weight words in high and low Eating Disorder Inventory scorers


  • This paper was adapted from an Honors thesis submitted to the Department of Psychology, University of Sydney by the first author (under the supervision of the second and third authors). Parts of this paper were presented at the International Congress of Psychology, Stockholm, Sweden, 2000.



To assess attentional biases associated with food and body shape/weight words in fasted and nonfasted high and low Eating Disorder Inventory-2 (EDI-2) scorers.


Subjects were 56 female first-year undergraduate psychology students, aged 17–24 years, participating for course credit. High and low scorers on the Drive for Thinness and Body Dissatisfaction subscales of the EDI-2 completed alternative modified dot probe tasks containing food words, body shape/weight words, and control words, under fasted and nonfasted conditions.


Fasting increased attentional bias toward high-calorie food words across all subjects. High EDI-2 scorers also showed an attentional bias toward low-calorie words, but only when nonfasted.


Food-related attentional biases, commonly observed in eating disorder patients, may reflect a pervasive concern with food-related stimuli as opposed to being simply a product of chronic hunger. That is, with increasing hunger, high EDI-2 scorers shift their focus away from low-calorie foods to high-calorie foods. This result suggests an attentional bias basis for the cycle of high-calorie binging when hungry and low-calorie food selections when less hungry. © 2002 by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Int J Eat Disord 32: 79–90, 2002.