Mirror gazing increases attractiveness in satisfied, but not in dissatisfied women; a model for body dysmorphic disorder?

S. Mulkens*, A.T.M. Jansen

*Corresponding author for this work

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Body dysmorphic disorder is a severe disturbance in which the person is preoccupied with an imagined defect in appearance. It is unclear what causes and what maintains BDD, although it is assumed that patients are characterized by an increased self-focused attention. Since patients spend a lot of time examining their 'defect' in reflecting surfaces, it might well be that mirror gazing itself is an important maintaining factor for BDD, as it may lead to a loss of sense of proportions. If so, normal individuals' body evaluations are expected to decrease likewise after mirror exposure. In the present study, 50 female students watched both their own face in the mirror and a photograph of a neutral female face for 3.5 min. Before and after gazing, they rated the attractiveness of the faces. Results indicate that mirror exposure did not lead to decreased attractiveness in normal participants. However, when participants were divided into high and low satisfaction about appearance, highly satisfied individuals' evaluations of their own face improved, whereas low satisfied individuals' evaluations tended to decrease. For the other face, only the low satisfied individuals showed increased attractiveness scores at post-test. The results are explained by selective visual attention and are in line with recent findings in eating disordered women.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)211-218
JournalJournal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2009

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