Selective visual attention for ugly and beautiful body parts in eating disorders

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

*Corresponding author for this work

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Body image disturbance is characteristic of eating disorders, and current treatments use body exposure to reduce bad body feelings. There is however little known about the cognitive effects of body exposure. In the present study, eye movement registration (electroculography) as a direct index of selective visual attention was used while eating symptomatic and normal control participants were exposed to digitalized pictures of their own body and control bodies. The data showed a decreased focus on their own 'beautiful' body parts in the high symptomatic participants, whereas inspection of their own 'ugly' body parts was given priority. In the normal control group a self-serving cognitive bias was found: they focused more on their own 'beautiful' body parts and less on their own 'ugly' body parts. When viewing other bodies the pattern was reversed: high symptom participants allocated their attention to the beautiful parts of other bodies, whereas normal controls concentrated on the ugly parts of the other bodies. From the present findings the hypothesis follows that a change in the processing of information might be needed for body exposure to be successful.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)183-196
JournalBehaviour Research and Therapy
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2005

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