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Christina Joseph, Maggie Shiffrar, Sarah Savoy; Evaluation of attentional biases towards thin bodies. Journal of Vision 2010;10(7):253. doi: 10.1167/10.7.253.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Background: The aim of this research is to understand how people distribute their visual attention across scenes containing people. Previous studies have indicated that women with eating disorder symptoms (high body dissatisfaction) selectively attend to images of thin female bodies. With increasing numbers of men experiencing body dissatisfaction (BD), we examined whether men also selectively attend to thin bodies, whether this attentional bias depends upon the gender of observed body, and whether this bias is a function of observer BD, weight, and/or gender. Method: Male and female participants completed the Body Shape Questionnaire-34 to measure their level of BD. They then completed a dot-probe task in which they first saw a fixation followed by two bodies of the same gender (one thin, one overweight) presented simultaneously one above the other. After 500 ms, the bodies disappeared from the display and an arrow appeared in the previous location of one of the bodies. With a key press, participants reported whether the arrow pointed to the left or right. Reaction times were recorded to determine whether observers had directed their attentional resources towards the thin or heavy body type. Trials were blocked by figure gender. Results: There was a significant interaction between subject gender, figure gender, and figure body type, F(1,35)-5.52, p=.025. No main effects were significant. Conclusions: Female observers spontaneously direct their attentional resources to thin female bodies and to overweight male bodies. Male observers selectively attend to thin male bodies and distribute their attention equally across all female bodies. It has been proposed that selective attention to thin bodies maintains high levels of body dissatisfaction. If so, the current results suggest that both men and women exhibit similar relationships between attentional biases and body dissatisfaction.
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