Processing biases in eating disorders: The impact of temporal factors




Previous research has indicated that temporal factors [specifically, the duration of interstimulus intervals (ISI) during a threat processing task] may influence the nature of processing biases exhibited in nonclinical populations with some degree of eating disorder psychopathology (Meyer et al., Int J Eat Disord, 27, 405–410, 2000). The current study aimed to test this hypothesis by investigating attentional biases for eating-disorder-relevant images and irrelevant visual images (animals) in patients with eating disorders (n = 23) and psychiatric (n = 19) and nonpsychiatric (n = 65) controls.


A dot probe task was modified from previous research (Shafran et al., Int J Eat Disord, 40, 369–380, 2007), whereby an original ISI of 500 ms was increased to 2,000 ms.


Patients with an eating disorder continued to display a bias in the processing of weight stimuli. However, biases noted in previous research for shape and weight stimuli disappeared when the ISI duration was increased in this way.


These findings highlight the importance of temporal factors in whether processing biases are displayed and may point to ways in which biases actually work in this population. However, further research is warranted. © 2008 by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Int J Eat Disord 2008