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Christina Joseph, Maggie Shiffrar; Do Observers' Negative Self-Evaluations of Their Own Bodies Mediate Their Visual Attention Towards Other Bodies?. Journal of Vision 2011;11(11):110. doi: 10.1167/11.11.110.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Background:Previous research suggests that spatial distributions of attentional resources reflect the potentially rewarding and threatening characteristics of stimuli. Here we investigate whether psychological characteristics of the observer, namely, dissatisfaction with one's own body, systematically impacts distributions of attention within social scenes. Glauert et al. (2010) demonstrated that female observers exhibit attentional biases toward the bodies of thin women. We investigated whether this effect is limited to bodies, extends to male observers, and correlates with each observer's body dissatisfaction (BD) and/or body mass index (BMI). Methods: BMI was calculated from height and weight measurements and BD was assessed with the Body Satisfaction Questionnaire BSQ-34. Male and female observers completed a modified dot probe task to assess attentional distribution across space. After fixation, two bodies of the same gender (one thin, one overweight) appeared simultaneously one above the other. After 500 ms, the bodies disappeared and an arrow appeared in the previous location of one of the bodies. Participants reported arrow direction with a key press. Reaction times in correct trials were analyzed to determine whether observers showed an attentional bias toward thin bodies. In a control condition, thin and heavy bodies were replaced with narrow and wide objects (buildings or bottles). Results: Female, but not male (p > .05), observers showed a significant correlation between attentional bias towards thin bodies and BD r(87) = .234, p = .027. Attentional bias did not correlate with BMI nor was it found with objects (all ps > .05) Conclusions: The strong relationship between attentional bias towards thin bodies and body dissatisfaction in female observers supports the hypothesis that psychological characteristics of observers impact their spatial distribution of attentional resources across social scenes. Indeed, this bias may reflect a perceptual mechanism that maintains body dissatisfaction.
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