A cognitive distortion associated with eating disorders: Thought-shape fusion
Article first published online: 24 DEC 2010
1999 The British Psychological Society
British Journal of Clinical Psychology
Volume 38, Issue 2, pages 167–179, June 1999
How to Cite
Shafran, R., Teachman, B. A., Kerry, S. and Rachman, S. (1999), A cognitive distortion associated with eating disorders: Thought-shape fusion. British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 38: 167–179. doi: 10.1348/014466599162728
- Issue published online: 24 DEC 2010
- Article first published online: 24 DEC 2010
- Cited By
Objectives. The primary objective of this study was to describe and investigate a cognitive distortion associated with eating psychopathology. This distortion, termed ‘thought-shape fusion’, is said to occur when merely thinking about eating a forbidden food increases the person's estimate of their shape or weight, elicits a perception of moral wrongdoing and makes the person feel fat.
Design. Two studies were conducted. The first was a psychometric study and the second utilized a within-participants experimental design.
Methods. In Study 1, thought-shape fusion was assessed in a sample of 119 undergraduate students using a questionnaire. In Study 2, 30 students with high thought-shape fusion scores participated in an experiment designed to elicit the distortion.
Results. Thought-shape fusion was found to be significantly associated with measures of eating disorder psychopathology. The questionnaire used to measure thought-shape fusion had high internal consistency, a good factor structure accounting for 46.2% of the variance and predictive validity. The results from Study 2 indicated that the distortion can be elicited under experimental conditions, produces negative emotional reactions and prompts the urge to engage in corrective behaviour (e.g. neutralizing / checking). This corrective behaviour promptly reduces the negative reactions.
Conclusion. The results of the two studies indicate that the concept of thought-shape fusion is coherent, unifactorial and measurable. It is associated with eating disturbance and elicits negative emotional and behavioural responses.