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Br J Clin Psychol. 1997 Sep;36 ( Pt 3):421-32.

Selective processing of shape-related words in women with eating disorders, and those who have recovered.

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  • 1Clinical Psychology Department, University College of North Wales, Bangor, Gwynedd, UK.



This study sought to investigate whether women with anorexia or bulimia nervosa and women who had recovered showed cognitive bias towards shape, food and adolescent issues.


A five-group analysis of variance design was used, in which the different client groups were the independent variables. The dependent variable was performance on an emotional Stroop task.


Current anorexia sufferers (N = 31), current bulimia sufferers (N = 24), recovered anorexics (N = 23), recovered bulimics (N = 11) and women who had never suffered from eating disorders (N = 33) were recruited through health-care professionals, support groups and newspapers. Colour-naming times for target and comparison Stroop cards were measured.


Women currently suffering from bulimia, and women who had recovered from anorexia, were found to be more distracted by shape concerns than women who had never suffered eating disorders and women who had recovered from bulimia.


The results suggest that there may be an enduring cognitive bias among women who have recovered from anorexia. This is the first study in which impairment on an emotional Stroop task has been found to persist after recovery from a clinical condition.

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