Decreasing body dissatisfaction using a brief conditioning intervention

Vandana Aspen*, Carolien Martijn, Jessica M. Alleva, Jessica Nagel, Cassie Perret, Clare Purvis, Jenine Saekow, James Lock, C. Barr Taylor

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Objective: Body dissatisfaction in females is common and a risk factor for the development of an eating disorder. This study tested whether body dissatisfaction could be improved using a brief conditioning intervention in which photographs of participants' bodies were selectively paired with positive social stimuli (smiling faces) and photographs of other bodies were paired with neutral or negative social stimuli (neutral and frowning faces). Method: 39 women (mean age = 22.46; 64.1% Caucasian) with high body dissatisfaction were randomized to either the evaluative conditioning intervention (n = 22) or to a delayed waitlist control condition (n 17). Body dissatisfaction (specifically, shape and weight concern), restraint, eating concern, and self-esteem were assessed at baseline, post treatment and again after four and 12 weeks. Results: Compared to women in the delayed waitlist control condition, women in the treatment condition demonstrated a significant decrease in shape and weight concern, and a significant increase in self-esteem. Similar trends were found for the control condition after they completed the intervention. Changes at post treatment related to body dissatisfaction were maintained at 12-week follow-up. Conclusions: Repeatedly pairing photographs of an individual's body with positive social feedback may lead to improved body image and self-esteem.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)93-99
Number of pages7
JournalBehaviour Research and Therapy
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2015


  • Body image
  • Body dissatisfaction
  • Intervention
  • Evaluative conditioning
  • High risk


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