Bias for the (un)attractive self: on the role of attention in causing body (dis)satisfaction

E. Smeets*, A. Jansen, A. Roefs

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Objective: Body dissatisfaction plays a key role in the maintenance of eating disorders, and selective attention might be crucial for the origin of body dissatisfaction. A. Jansen, C. Nederkoorn, and S. Mulkens (2005) showed that eating disorder patients attend relatively more to their own unattractive body parts, whereas healthy controls attend relatively more to their own attractive body parts. In 2 studies, we investigated whether this bias in selective attention is causal to body dissatisfaction and whether an experimentally induced bias for attractive body parts might lead to increased body satisfaction in women who are highly dissatisfied with their bodies. Design: We used a between-subjects design in which participants were trained to attend to either their self-defined unattractive body parts or their self-defined attractive body parts by use of an eye tracker. Main Outcome Measures: State body and weight satisfaction. Results: Inducing a temporary attentional bias for self-defined unattractive body parts led to a significant decrease in body satisfaction and teaching body-dissatisfied women to attend to their own attractive body parts led to a significant increase in body satisfaction. Conclusion: Selective attention for unattractive body parts can play a role in the development of body dissatisfaction, and changing the way one looks may be a new way for improving body dissatisfaction in women. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2011 APA, all rights reserved) (journal abstract)
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)360-367
JournalHealth Psychology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2011


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