Date of Award

1993

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Donald Williamson

Abstract

Body dysphoria is common in the general population and is thought to be associated with the development of eating disorders. Few studies have examined the role of cognitive processes in normal weight body dysphoric women. This study proposed an associative memory model of body dysphoria. The model predicted an increased memory bias for negative body words and increased body image disturbance in high body dysphoric subjects induced to a depressive mood. Based on the proposed model of body dysphoria, high dysphoric subjects were also predicted to give more depressive/negative body word associates on a word association task. Finally, the Pathfinder method for generating cognitive networks was used to investigate the association of depressive, and positive and negative body concepts in the cognitive networks of high and low body dysphoric subjects. High and low body dysphoric subjects were assigned to either a neutral or depressive mood induction procedure (half of each group went into each mood condition). Prior to the mood induction, the subjects were assessed for body image disturbance and presented with a word list. Following the mood induction free recall and recognition memory tasks were given. The subjects were then assessed again for body image disturbance and given a word association task. Fifteen additional subjects in each group (no mood induction) were used to compare the associative networks of high and low dysphoric subjects with regards to depression and body image. As predicted a memory bias for negative body words was found in the high dysphoric subjects only. The mood induction procedure provided mixed support for the proposed associative memory model of body dysphoria. The mood induction did not increase the recall of negative body words but did affect the judgements of current body image disturbance in high body dysphoric subjects. The results of the word association task and the Pathfinder networks also provided some support for the proposed model of body dysphoria. Therefore, cognitive processes and transient mood states appear to play some role in body dysphoria, however, the mixed results of the study suggest that more research is needed and that the associative memory model may require modification.

Pages

168

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