Mirror exposure to increase body satisfaction: Should we guide the focus of attention towards positively or negatively evaluated body parts?

A. Jansen*, V. Voorwinde, Y. Hoebink, M. Rekkers, C. Martijn, S. Mulkens

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background and Objectives: Though there is some evidence that body exposure increases body satisfaction, it is still unclear why exposure works and how attention should be guided during exposure. This pilot study manipulates the focus of attention during body exposure. Methods: Female participants high in body dissatisfaction were randomly assigned to an exposure intervention that exclusively focused on self-defined attractive (n = 11) or self-defined unattractive (n = 11) body parts. Both interventions consisted of five exposure sessions and homework. Outcome and process of change were studied. Results: Both types of exposure were equally effective and led to significant improvements in body satisfaction, body checking, body concerns, body avoidance and mood at post-test. Improvements for body satisfaction and mood were maintained at follow-up while body shape concerns and body checking still improved between post-test and follow-up. Body avoidance improvements were maintained for the positive exposure while the negative exposure tended to further decrease long-term body avoidance at follow-up.. The 'positive' exposure induced positive feelings during all exposure sessions while the 'negative' exposure initially induced a worsening of feelings but feelings started to improve after some sessions. The most unattractive body part was rated increasingly attractive in both conditions though this increase was significantly larger in the negative compared to the positive exposure condition. Limitations: The sample size was small and non-clinical. Conclusions: Both types of exposure might be effective and clinically useful. Negative exposure is emotionally hard but might be significantly more effective in increasing the perceived attractiveness of loathed body parts and in decreasing avoidance behavior. (c) 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)90-96
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2016


  • Body image
  • Mirror exposure
  • Body exposure
  • Attention
  • Eating disorders
  • Body dissatisfaction
  • Cognitive behaviour therapy
  • SELF

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