Attention and memory bias for body image and health related information using an Emotional Stroop task in a non-clinical sample

Mulgrew, Kate Elizabeth (2008) Attention and memory bias for body image and health related information using an Emotional Stroop task in a non-clinical sample. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


It has been proposed that body image disturbance is a form of cognitive bias wherein schemas for self-relevant information guide the selective processing of appearancerelated information in the environment. This threatening information receives disproportionately more attention and memory, as measured by an Emotional Stroop and incidental recall task. The aim of this thesis was to expand the literature on cognitive processing biases in non-clinical males and females by incorporating a number of significant methodological refinements. To achieve this aim, three phases of research were conducted. The initial two phases of research provided preliminary data to inform the development of the main study. Phase One was a qualitative exploration of body image concerns amongst males and females recruited through the general community and from a university. Seventeen participants (eight male; nine female) provided information on their body image and what factors they saw as positively and negatively impacting on their self evaluations. The importance of self esteem, mood, health and fitness, and recognition of the social ideal were identified as key themes. These themes were incorporated as psycho-social measures and Stroop word stimuli in subsequent phases of the research. Phase Two involved the selection and testing of stimuli to be used in the Emotional Stroop task. Six experimental categories of words were developed that reflected a broad range of health and body image concerns for males and females. These categories were high and low calorie food words, positive and negative appearance words, negative emotion words, and physical activity words. Phase Three addressed the central aim of the project by examining cognitive biases for body image information in empirically defined sub-groups. A National sample of males (N = 55) and females (N = 144), recruited from the general community and universities, completed an Emotional Stroop task, incidental memory test, and a collection of psycho-social questionnaires. Sub-groups of body image disturbance were sought using a cluster analysis, which identified three sub-groups in males (Normal, Dissatisfied, and Athletic) and four sub-groups in females (Normal, Health Conscious, Dissatisfied, and Symptomatic). No differences were noted between the groups in selective attention, although time taken to colour name the words was associated with some of the psycho-social variables. Memory biases found across the whole sample for negative emotion, low calorie food, and negative appearance words were interpreted as reflecting the current focus on health and stigma against being unattractive. Collectively these results have expanded our understanding of processing biases in the general community by demonstrating that the processing biases are found within non-clinical samples and that not all processing biases are associated with negative functionality

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ID Code: 26964
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Moss, Nathan & Mahar, Douglas
Keywords: body image, Emotional Stroop, attention, memory, cluster analysis, classification
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Schools > School of Psychology & Counselling
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 24 Aug 2009 05:13
Last Modified: 28 Oct 2011 19:53

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