An experimental investigation of recruitment bias in eating pathology research


  • The current article is based on Erin L. Moss's BSc honors research project, which was completed under the supervision of Kristin M. von Ranson.

    Portions of the current article were presented at the International Conference on Eating Disorders in Montreal, Quebec, April 27–30, 2005, and at the Eating Disorders Research Society meeting in Toronto, Ontario, September 29–October 1, 2005.


Previous, uncontrolled research has suggested a bias may exist in recruiting participants for eating disorder research. Recruitment biases may affect sample representativeness and generalizability of findings.


This experiment investigated whether revealing that a study's topic was related to eating disorders created a self-selection bias.


Young women at a university responded to advertisements containing contrasting information about the nature of a single study. We recruited one group by advertising the study under the title “Disordered Eating in Young Women”(n = 251) and another group using the title “Consumer Preferences” (n = 259).


Results indicated similar levels of eating pathology in both groups, so the different recruitment techniques did not engender self-selection. However, the consumer preferences group scored higher in self-reported social desirability.


The level of information conveyed in study advertising does not impact reporting of eating disturbances among nonclinical samples, although there is evidence social desirability might. © 2006 Wiley Periodicals, Inc., Int J Eat Disord, 2006