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Keywords:

  • attentional bias;
  • body dissatisfaction;
  • social comparison;
  • socio-cultural attitudes;
  • dot probe

Abstract

Objective:

Evidence for attentional biases to weight- and shape-related information in women with eating concerns is inconclusive.

Method:

We investigated whether body dissatisfaction is associated with an attentional bias toward thin bodies using a modified dot probe task.

Results:

In three studies, we found that undergraduate females were faster to discriminate the direction of an arrow cue when it appeared in the location previously occupied by a thin than a fat body. This attentional bias toward thin bodies was found using extreme stimuli (thin and fat bodies) presented for 500 ms (Experiment 1), extreme stimuli presented for 150 ms (Experiment 2), and less extreme stimuli that were equated for perceived extremity, presented for 150 ms (Experiment 3). When the stimuli were equated on perceptual extremity, the more dissatisfied a woman was with her body, and the larger her own BMI, the less of an attentional bias she showed toward thin bodies.

Discussion:

Our results indicate that women have an attentional bias to thin bodies, which appears to be automatic. Contrary to prediction, this bias was weaker in women with greater BMI and body dissatisfaction. This result offers no support for the view that selective attention to thin bodies is causally related to body dissatisfaction. © 2009 by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Int J Eat Disord 2010