Cognitive Processing in Young Women: Inhibition of Return in Eating Disorders
Eating disorders are serious and complex illnesses that are often associated with morbidity, mortality, chronicity and treatment resistance. Theoretical models of eating disorders highlight the cognitive nature of these conditions, with the overvaluation of shape/weight and its control theorised to be their core psychopathology in terms of eating disorder development, maintenance, and treatment. Current treatment approaches aim to modify the overvaluation of shape/weight with conscious...[Show more]
|dc.description.abstract||Eating disorders are serious and complex illnesses that are often associated with morbidity, mortality, chronicity and treatment resistance. Theoretical models of eating disorders highlight the cognitive nature of these conditions, with the overvaluation of shape/weight and its control theorised to be their core psychopathology in terms of eating disorder development, maintenance, and treatment. Current treatment approaches aim to modify the overvaluation of shape/weight with conscious cognitive and behavioural interventions. While this is highly effective for some individuals, the overall outcomes of the current treatment approaches remain relatively poor. One limitation of the current cognitive behavioural approach is the focus on conscious information processing, as subconscious processing is extremely important in determining which information is and is not processed and responded to. Findings from eating disorders research indicate the occurrence of attentional biases in the processing of eating disorder salient information. This research, however, has focused on the initial stages of subconscious information processing, with little research exploring the later stages. The current research aims to fill this gap by investigating the occurrence of attentional biases at the later stages of attention. Study one investigated the occurrence of the inhibition of return (IOR) effect in individuals diagnosed with an eating disorder, individuals endorsing high levels of dietary restraint, and a non-dietary restrained individuals for food images and household images. Results for this study indicated no differences in the occurrence of attentional disengagement between the three groups or between the image types (i.e., food and household images). This provides important information indicating that food, a disorder salient but non-core aspect of the cognitive psychopathology may not lead to altered attentional biases at the later stages of attention. Study two investigated the occurrence of these attentional biases for body shape/weight images, a stimulus type specifically relevant to the core psychopathology. This study compared three groups of participants, namely, participants diagnosed with an eating disorder, those who reported high levels of shape/weight-based self-worth, and those who reported low levels of shape/weight-based self-worth. Results indicated the high shape/weight-based self-worth group demonstrated a strong level of attentional disengagement from the shape/weight images when compared with the eating disorder and low shape/weight based self-worth groups. The next aim was to investigate the causal impact these biases, along with investigating whether these changes could be modified. Study three investigated whether the attentional biases could be modified using an IOR task, and if this had an impact on eating disorder psychopathology. Women between the ages of 18-35 years, who reported high shape/weight-based self-worth, were randomly allocated to either an attentional training or control group. Results from this study indicated that, the training task was successful in modifying the occurrence of the IOR effect, such that it no longer occurred. Unexpectedly, however, this effect was generalised for both the target and control training stimuli. Nor did this modification lead to the expected changes in self-reported eating disorder psychopathology. Overall, the current research indicates the occurrence of later stage attentional biases for shape/weight, but not food, information. Further, these biases can be modified at an information processing level, however, this was not sufficient to induce symptom or behavioural change. The current research was the first to undertake an investigation into the occurrence and modification of attentional biases at the later stages of attention through the use of an IOR paradigm, and as such there are a number of important clinical implications.|
|dc.title||Cognitive Processing in Young Women: Inhibition of Return in Eating Disorders|
|local.contributor.affiliation||Research School of Psychology, ANU Colleges of Science, Australian National University|
|Alexandra Cobb Revised Thesis.pdf||5.76 MB||Adobe PDF||Request a copy|
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