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Psychosom Med. 2012 Jan;74(1):107-13. doi: 10.1097/PSY.0b013e31823ba787. Epub 2011 Dec 30.

Selective attention of patients with anorexia nervosa while looking at pictures of their own body and the bodies of others: an exploratory study.

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PhD,Department of Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy, Ulm University, Am Hochsträß 8, 89081 Ulm, Germany.



Attention and assessment biases are part of body image disturbances shown by patients with anorexia nervosa (AN). The aim of this article was to study these biases by using eye movement analyses.


As stimuli, the study used 24 standardized pictures showing young women and a standardized picture of the respective study participant. With an eye movement tracer, we were able to determine what body areas that the study participants look at. The study participants were also asked to rate the attractiveness of the stimuli. Data from 35 patients with AN and 32 healthy controls were included.


Patients with AN judge their own body areas as being less attractive than the controls on a rating scale from 1 to 5 (e.g., breasts: mean [standard deviation] = 0.9 [1.0] versus 2.2 [0.8], p < .001). They were also more critical in their assessment of the bodies of others (e.g., attractiveness of people with ideal weight: 2.1 [0.9] versus 2.8 [0.5], p < .001). They spent less time looking at their own breasts (1.8 [0.9] versus 2.2 [1.0] seconds, p = .09) but significantly more time at their thighs (1.1 [0.6] versus 0.8 [0.4] seconds, p = .05).


The results confirm the assumption of cognitive biases. The differences, however, are often small and vary greatly.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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