Just looking at food makes me gain weight: Experimental induction of thought-shape fusion in eating-disordered and non-eating-disordered women

J.S. Coelho*, J.C. Carter, T. McFarlane, J. Polivy

*Corresponding author for this work

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Thought-shape fusion (TSF) is a cognitive distortion that can be induced experimentally and is associated with eating pathology. The current study was conducted in order to elucidate the effects of TSF induction in females with eating disorders (n = 35), as well as in restrained eaters (n = 38) and unrestrained eaters (n = 39). It was hypothesized that TSF induction would result in anxiety, guilt, increased feelings of fatness, perceived weight gain and feelings of moral wrong-doing relative to an anxiety and control induction. It was further hypothesized that restrained eaters and individuals with eating disorders would exhibit a stronger reaction to a TSF induction than would unrestrained eaters. The results indicated that, as predicted, TSF can be induced in individuals both with and without eating disorders, and individuals with eating disorders reported the highest levels of "state" TSF after the induction relative to the non-clinical controls. However, contrary to expectations, restrained eaters reported higher levels of perceived weight gain and moral wrong-doing after the anxiety induction (but not the TSF induction) relative to the control induction. Potential mechanisms for this pattern of results are discussed, and the clinical implications of research on TSF are also considered.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)219-228
JournalBehaviour Research and Therapy
Volume46 (2)
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2008

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