Inhibition of return for body images in individuals with shape/weight based self-worth

Alexandra Cobb, Elizabeth Rieger, Jason Bell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Background: Attentional biases for body shape and weight information have been found in people with eating disorders, indicating disorder-specific changes in the way this information is processed. To date, the literature has focused on the initial capture of attention, with little research on the maintenance of attention to shape/weight-related information. The current study aims to investigate the occurrence of attentional maintenance through the use of an Inhibition of Return task to shape and weight stimuli in those with and without an eating disorder. Method: Three groups of female participants between the ages of 16-30years undertook an Inhibition of Return task with target images of female bodies and control images of animals. The groups were an eating disorder group (n=20), a High shape/weight based self-worth group (n=23), and a Low shape/weight based self-worth group (n=26). Results: The results indicated differential patterns of Inhibition of Return between the High and Low shape/weight based self-worth groups. The High group displayed increased inhibition of return for the shape/weight stimuli relative to control stimuli, while the Low group displayed reduced inhibition of return for the shape/weight stimuli compared to control stimuli. The ED group displayed a similar pattern of results to the High group, but this did not reach significance. Conclusion: The current findings indicate that young women without an eating disorder who base their self-worth on shape/weight display a pattern of avoidance of shape/weight stimuli that is in direct contrast to those at low risk of developing eating disorders. The possible implications of these specific patterns of inhibition of return across those at varying levels of risk for an eating disorder are discussed along with their implications for intervention approaches.

Original languageEnglish
Article number25
JournalJournal of Eating Disorders
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 14 Sep 2018


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