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Title: Cognitive processing and eating disorder symptoms : examining motivational ambivalence
Author: Ahem, Amy Louise
ISNI:       0000 0001 3399 6834
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2008
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Purpose: To use experimental methodology to develop a more comprehensive understanding of cognitive processing biases associated with eating disorder symptoms, in a non-clinical population of young women, Background: Research examining the cognitive processing model of body image and eating disorders (Williamson et aI., 1999) is limited by reliance on self-report questionnaires, which only measure attitudes and behaviours that participants are willing and able to report. In addition, many processes and associations included in the model are taken for granted and remain relatively untested. The current thesis used new experimental methods, which access attitudes outside of cognitive control, to examine hypotheses arising from the cognitive processing model, in a non-clinical population of young women aged 16-25. Key Findings: Idealisation ofthinness: A distinction was identified between immediate (implicit) and deliberative (explicit) attitudes to the thin-ideal. Three studies used implicit attitude measures to examine idealisation of thinness. Implicit preference for thin (over fat) did not differentiate between participants. However, there were individual differences in the level of thinness idealised by young women. Implicit preference for underweight images was associated with elevated drive for thinness, a key construct within eating disorders. Attitude Importance: This thesis examined two types of attitude importance: appearance salience and the importance of societal standards of appearance. The importance of societal appearance standards to the individual moderated the relationship between IAT scores and drive for thinness (i.e. stronger for those for whom the attitude was important). Participants who scored high on appearance salience demonstrated bias to attend to underweight images. Cognitive Control: Use of secondary control strategies in older women protects their self concept from negative effects of body dissatisfaction (\Vebster & Tiggemann, 2003) but is relatively unexplored in younger women. This research showed that use of secondary control strategies is associated with lower drive for thinness in young women. Motivational Ambivalence: Drive for thinness is in direct conflict with desire for food, which is thought to be higher in dieters. This research showed that dieters only differed from non-dieters in self-reported food wanting, not increased attention to food (VP), implicit approach to food (SRC) or working harder for food rewards (Reinforcement Task). Dieters also scored higher than non-dieters on behavioural approach and inhibition constructs. This combination is characteristic of eating disorders, suggesting that motivational ambivalence is associated with eating disorder risk. Implications: This thesis increases understanding of appearance schemas and the way information is processed in relation to them. Methodological innovations captured the complexity of thin-ideal schemas by illustrating the role of motivational ambivalence and secondary control over body-related cognitions.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available