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The effect of attention on body size adaptation and body dissatisfaction

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posted on 2022-03-28, 09:14 authored by Dorothea House
The direction of attention towards people of a low fat body mass is associated with the tendency to perceive low fat bodies as "normal" sized (Stephen, Sturman, et al., 2018) and higher rates of body dissatisfaction (Moussally et al., 2016). Attentional bias towards low fat bodies may therefore contribute to the pathological levels of body size misperception and body dissatisfaction that are diagnostic symptoms of eating disorders (American Psychiatric Association, 2013; Cash & Deagle, 1997). This research investigated whether two attentional bias modification tasks influence body size perception and body dissatisfaction in a sample of 430 Caucasian women aged 18-35. Participants were trained to attend towards either high or low fat body stimuli using a Dot Probe task (Experiment 1) and a Visual Search task (Experiment 2). Pre- and post-training measures were used to determine the effect of the attention training on 1) attention to high vs low fat body stimuli, 2) the body size perceived as "normal", and 3) body dissatisfaction. Bootstrapped one sample t-tests showed that participants who were trained to attend towards high fat body stimuli using the Dot Probe task significantly increased their attention towards high fat body stimuli (p = .001); however, their perceptions of a "normal" body size and their body dissatisfaction did not change significantly as a result of the attention training. Participants trained to attend towards low fat bodies using the Dot Probe task did not demonstrate a significant change in their attention, perceptions of a "normal" body size, or body dissatisfaction. Participants who were trained using the Visual Search task did not demonstrate a significant change in their attention, perception of a "normal" body size, or body dissatisfaction. The results indicate that the attentional bias modification tasks used in this experiment may be insufficient in the treatment of body image disturbances. -- abstract


Table of Contents

The effect of attention on body size adaptations and body dissatisfaction -- Body size and misperception -- Body size and shape misperception -- Body size adaptation -- Attentional bias, body dissatisfaction and body size adaptation -- attentional bias modification -- The present study -- Hypotheses -- Experiment 1: Dot probe task -- Experiment 2: visual search task -- General discussion -- References -- Appendices.


Theoretical thesis. Bibliography: pages 70-81

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis MRes


MRes, Macquarie University, Faculty of Medicine, Health and Human Science, Department of Psychology

Department, Centre or School

Department of Psychology

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Ian Stephen


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