Date of Award


Degree Type




First Advisor

McLennan, Conor

Subject Headings

Eating disorders in women -- Psychological aspects, Body image in women -- Psychological aspects, Color and form recognition test, Eating Disorders, Thin Ideal Priming, Body Dissatisfaction, Middle Age, Attentional Bias, Mouse Tracking, Body-Related Words


Research has shown individuals with an eating disorder selectively attend to stimuli related to their concerns, and this attentional component might be one way in which eating disorders are maintained. Research using a variant of the Stroop task has demonstrated that women with an eating disorder have a stronger Stroop interference effect for words related to body shape than controls. The conclusion is individuals with an eating disorder have an information processing bias for stimuli related to their disorder, and thus, slower responses. A main objective of this study was to investigate this effect in both younger and middle age females. In Experiment 1, younger and middle age females with an eating disorder were compared with females without an eating disorder. In Experiment 2, younger and middle age females who had been exposed to thin media images were compared with females exposed to control images. The predictions were reflected through the color naming of body related words in a variation of the Stroop task. Computer mouse tracking was used to examine processing in both experiments. I predicted participants with an eating disorder (Experiment 1) or those exposed to the thin ideal prime (Experiment 2) would be more distracted by the presence of body related words relative to the controls. In both experiments, the middle age participants took longer to complete the task than the younger participants. In Experiment 1, age differences interacted with the eating disorder, a new finding with important implications. The RT data from the priming manipulation in Experiment 2 suggested that the thin prime facilitated responses to the body related words, opposite from the predictions. However, when examining the raw trajectory data using mouse tracking, age differences and interactions with prime began to emerge. The results showed, when looking at the role of an eating disorder in Experiment 1, middle age females with an eating disorder exhibited large attentional deficits. In Experiment 2

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Psychology Commons