August 2023
Volume 23, Issue 9
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   August 2023
Facial Emotion Recognition in People with Differing Levels of Eating Disorder Symptoms
Author Affiliations
  • Ilya Nudnou
    North Dakota State University
  • Katherine Duggan
    North Dakota State University
  • Lauren Schaefer
    Sanford Center for Biobehavioral Research
  • Benjamin Balas
    North Dakota State University
Journal of Vision August 2023, Vol.23, 4977. doi:
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      Ilya Nudnou, Katherine Duggan, Lauren Schaefer, Benjamin Balas; Facial Emotion Recognition in People with Differing Levels of Eating Disorder Symptoms. Journal of Vision 2023;23(9):4977.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Individuals with eating disorders have been found in some cases to exhibit a range of perceptual deficits, including impaired facial emotion recognition. Previous research used accuracy and reaction time metrics to establish a link between emotion recognition deficits and eating disorders, though with inconsistent results across studies. The current pre-registered study examined eating disorder symptom severity in a non-clinical population as a function of emotion categorization abilities, using visual cognition paradigms that offer insights into how emotional faces may be categorized, as opposed to how well these faces are categorized. Specifically, we evaluated individual visual information use (i.e. how well participants perceived facial features used for emotion recognition) with the Bubbles task, and compared human performance to that of an ideal observer algorithm. Additionally, we evaluated individuals’ internal emotion prototypes with a combination of reverse correlation and fidelity ratings (how well recovered prototypes represent the original emotion category) by new participants. We examined these relationships while controlling for anxiety, depression, alexithymia, and emotion regulation difficulties. Both tasks produced meaningful representations of visual information use and internal category prototypes. However, neither overall visual information use nor prototype fidelity were significantly related to eating disorder symptom severity. Emotion categorization accuracy, while sharing variance with visual information use, was also not significantly related to eating disorder symptom severity. This pattern of results points to the unlikelihood of impaired emotion recognition mechanisms in eating disorder pathology. Results from this study must be interpreted with caution, given the non-clinical sample, which may have resulted in a restriction of range at the severe end of the eating disorder symptom scale. Future research may benefit from comparing visual information use and prototype fidelity of eating disorder patients and healthy controls, as well as employing repeated measures designs with patient samples.


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