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Title: An investigation of cognitive biases in dietary restraint
Author: Diamantis, Julia Alexia
ISNI:       0000 0001 3423 441X
Awarding Body: University of Sussex
Current Institution: University of Sussex
Date of Award: 1992
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Classification of individuals as high and low restrained eaters, according to their relative score on one of the several restraint assessment questionnaires currently in use, has been shown to predict an anomalous eating pattern, referred to as counter-regulation or disinhibition which, appears to be cognitively controlled. Two main sources of cognitive bias which may characterize dietary restraint in female college students have been investigated in this thesis; attentional and memory biases for food-related information. Experiments I-VI assessed selective attention for food-related words. Median split of subjects on scores from a restraint assessment scale yielded contradictory results. When middle scorers on the restraint assessment scale were excluded from the analyses, it became clear that attentional biases for food information do not characterize dietary restraint in female college students. Experiment VI replicated this finding in an adolescent population of school girls. However in Experiment III, after consumption of a sweet drink (either high or low calorie), significant interference effects in colour-naming sweet food words emerged for both the high and low restraint groups. The second series of studies examined memory biases for names of foods which are generally considered to be 'forbidden' to dieters but which they may still crave. Heightened recall of 'forbidden' food words by the high restrainers was indicated in both Experiments V and VI. The dependence of this memory bias upon the subjects knowing that the experiment is concerned with food and eating style was examined in Experiment VIII and the differential effect emerged in both unprimed and primed recall sessions. It was not found in Experiment VII in which subjects were naïve. The final study examined the effect of self- versus other- referencing during encoding on recall of 'forbidden' and 'healthy' food names by high and low restrainers. The experiments are discussed in terms of schematic processing of emotionally-relevant information with reference to Beck's Schema Theory of negative affect (1976, Cognitive Therapy and the Emotional Disorders. Int. Uni. Press: NY) and Williams, Watts, MacLeod, & Mathews's model of biased Information processing in emotional disorders (1988, Cognitive Psychology and Emotional Disorders. Wiley: Chichester). It is concluded that dietary restraint may be characterized by a memory bias for food names which dieters attempt to avoid. These biases, although statistically significant, were not substantial. It is suggested that future research takes into account the possibility that distinct categories exist within high restraint groups.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Emotional disorders ; Eating disorders