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Department of Cognitive Science

Seminar Abstract

The relationship between eating disorder-specific rumination and attentional bias towards thin-ideal images.

Speaker : Ms Laura Dondzilo, School of Psychological Science, The University of Western Australia.
Date : 12th of February 2018, 12:00PM until 1:00PM
Location : 3.14, South Psychology Building, The University of Western Australia.

    Selective attention and rumination have both been implicated as key vulnerability factors for eating disorder symptomatology. However, to date, no research has investigated the relationship between these factors in an eating disorders context. In this talk I will present a series of three studies that address this question and reveal the nature of the relationship between these two factors. The dot probe task was used to assess attentional bias towards and away from thin-ideal bodies. Eating disorder-specific rumination was assessed using an existing questionnaire. All studies involved female participants and stimuli only. Results from Study 1 revealed that eating disorder-specific rumination mediated the relationship between attentional bias towards thin-ideal bodies and eating disorder symptoms, such as body dissatisfaction and dietary restraint. Study 2 manipulated attentional bias but found this had no effect on rumination. Instead our results reveal another adverse consequence of attentional bias. Individuals trained to attend to thin-ideal bodies experienced greater increases in negative mood, in response to a body image-related stressor, relative to individuals trained to avoid thin-ideal bodies. Study 3 induced eating disorder-specific rumination and found this led to a change in attentional bias. Collectively, findings highlight the maladaptive roles of both attentional bias towards thin-ideal bodies and eating disorder-specific rumination in psychopathology. An important implication is that attentional bias towards thin-ideal bodies may serve as a risk factor for mood reactivity that may in turn predispose to an eating disorder. Additionally, since eating disorder-specific rumination was shown to influence attentional bias, this suggests that cognitively-focused strategies which target rumination and/or attention may help build emotional resilience, which in turn may protect against the development of an eating disorder.