Cognitive Processing of Threat Information in Female Eating Disorder Patients: The Role of Attentional Bias and Cognitive Avoidance
Sporle, Diana Maria
This study considers and explores the relationship between eating disorders and the cognitive processes of attentional bias and cognitive avoidance. These processes are also considered in terms of their contribution to the current theoretical conceptualisations of eating disorders and how this may potentially inform treatment. Previous research in the field is limited yet indicates that attentional biases exist in eating disorders, at least for disorder-specific stimuli using well recognised experimental paradigms. The research into cognitive avoidance is scarce yet has indicated that those with bulimic tendencies may use this cognitive strategy. A modified emotional Stroop task and an anagram solution task were used to evaluate experimental hypotheses postulating that attentional bias to and cognitive avoidance of disorder relevant and self-esteem threat stimuli would be present in a group of patients with an eating disorder (N=23) in comparison with a control group (N=34). Using the emotional Stroop, the results showed limited support for the presence of attentional biases in eating disorders. For the anagram solution task, some limited evidence was found for the presence of cognitive avoidance in the clinical eating disorder sample. The limitations of the study were considered and discussed, with an emphasis on improvements for future research using these experimental paradigms. The findings of the study were also discussed in relation to the implications for eating disorder theory and treatment.