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Perceived personality traits of individuals with anorexia nervosa


  • Funding: None.

  • Conflict of interest: None.

John M. Malouff, University of New England Psychology, Armidale, NSW 2351, Australia. Email:


Background:  Prior research has found evidence of a general negative personality stereotype for individuals who have anorexia nervosa (AN).

Methods:  This study examined the expected personality characteristics of individuals with AN using the Five-Factor Model of personality to allow identification of specific personality traits that are part of the AN stereotype. The study used an experimental method with random assignment of 636 participants to read detailed descriptions of individuals who were described as having AN or not and as being either male or female and then to rate the individuals on Five-Factor personality characteristics.

Results:  The results showed that participants rated individuals with AN significantly lower on the personality factors of agreeableness, extroversion, emotional stability, and openness. There was no significant difference in ratings on the factor of conscientiousness when the targets had AN and when they did not. The negative openness expectation was the opposite of how individuals with AN actually scored in prior research. There was no significant interaction between AN status and gender in expected personality characteristics.

Conclusions:  Overall, the results indicate the existence of a specific negative stereotype with potentially harmful consequences for both females and males with AN.