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J Abnorm Psychol. 2010 Aug;119(3):575-85. doi: 10.1037/a0019531.

A body-related dot-probe task reveals distinct attentional patterns for bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa.

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  • 1Department of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, Institute for Psychology, University of Freiburg, Engelbergerstrasse 41, 79106 Freiburg, Germany. Blechert@psychologie.uni-freiburg.de


We investigated body-related attentional biases in eating disorders by testing whether individuals with anorexia nervosa (AN, n = 19) and bulimia nervosa (BN, n = 18) differ from healthy controls (HC, n = 21) in their bias for attending to a photo of their own body (self-photo) relative to a photo of a matched control participant's body (other photo). In a modified dot-probe task, self- and other photos served as cues on the left and the right of the screen. After 1 of 2 time intervals, 1 of the photos was singled out by a surrounding frame, and participants had to saccade toward it. Saccade latency was used as an index of covert attention to the cue photos. In the AN group, saccades were faster when the self-photo was the target than when the other photo was the target. In the BN group, there was a numerically opposite but nonsignificant pattern. Cues did not affect saccade latencies in healthy controls. The bias for self-photos correlated with body dissatisfaction in the AN group. This is the first evidence of an attentional bias for self-photos over other photos in the AN group and for fundamental attentional differences between AN and BN.

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