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Keywords:

  • eating disorders;
  • body dissatisfaction;
  • negative mood;
  • anxiety;
  • attentional bias;
  • selective attention;
  • dot probe

Abstract

Objective:

The aim of the present study was to investigate the effect of inducing body dissatisfaction on selective attention toward negative shape and weight-related information.

Method:

A total of 54 female undergraduate university students were randomly allocated to one of three induction conditions: body dissatisfaction, negative mood, and neutral. Subsequently, participants' attentional bias toward negative shape/weight words was measured using a dot probe task.

Results:

Contrary to the hypotheses, participants in the body dissatisfaction condition did not demonstrate an increase in attention toward negative shape/weight words compared with the negative mood and neutral conditions. Indeed, it was the negative mood induction that resulted in significantly increased attention toward negative shape/weight words relative to the body dissatisfaction condition.

Discussion:

The finding that the negative mood (rather than the body dissatisfaction) induction triggered an attentional bias toward shape- and weight-related information is discussed in terms of the anxiety literature given the nature of the mood induction utilized. This finding might help to account for the high comorbidity between eating disorders and anxiety disorders and suggests the possible relevance of attentional training interventions designed for anxiety disorders in the treatment of eating disorders. © 2009 by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Int J Eat Disord 2010