Differences in eye-movement patterns between anorexic and control observers when judging body size and attractiveness


Dr M. J. Tovée, Institute of Neuroscience, Henry Wellcome Building. Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne NE2 4HH, UK (e-mail: m.j.tovee@ncl.ac.uk).


Attentional biases may influence the eye-movements made when judging bodies and so alter the visual information sampled when making a judgment. This may lead to an overestimation of body size. We measured the eye-movements made by 16 anorexic observers and 16 age-matched controls when judging body size and attractiveness. We combined behavioural data with a novel eye-movement analysis technique that allowed us to apply spatial statistical techniques to make fine spatial discriminations in the pattern of eye-movements between our observer groups. Our behavioural results show that anorexic observers overestimate body size relative to controls and find bodies with lower body mass indexes more attractive. For both judgments, the controls' fixations centre on the stomach, but the anorexic observers show a much wider fixation pattern extending to encompass additional features such as the prominence of the hip and collar bones. This additional visual information may serve to alter their behavioural judgments towards an overestimation of body size and shift their ideal body size towards a significantly lower value.