The Effect of Attention on Body Size Adaptation and Body Dissatisfaction

Thea House, Ian D Stephen, Ian S Penton-Voak, Kevin Brooks

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Attentional bias to low fat bodies is thought to be associated with body dissatisfaction—a symptom and risk factor of eating disorders. However, the causal nature of this relationship is unclear. In three preregistered experiments, we trained370 women to attend towards either high or low fat body stimuli using an attention training dot probe task. For each experiment, we analysed the effect of the attention training on 1) attention to subsequently-presented high versus low fat body stimuli, 2) visual adaptation to body size, and 3) body dissatisfaction. The attention training had no effect on attention towards high or low fat bodies in an online setting (Experiment 1), but did increase attention to high fat bodies in a laboratory setting (Experiment 2). Neither perceptions of a “normal” body size nor levels of body dissatisfaction changed as a result of the attention trainingin either setting. The results in the online setting did not change when we reduced the stimulus onset-asynchrony (SOA) of the dot probe task from 500ms to 100ms (Experiment 3). Our results provide no evidence that the dot probe training task used here has robust effects on attention to body size, body image disturbance, or body dissatisfaction.
Original languageEnglish
Article number211718
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Issue number2
Early online date23 Feb 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 23 Feb 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was funded by a Macquarie University Research Training Pathway scholarship and the Industrial and International Leverage Fund (IILF) as part of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP). Funding was also provided by a Cross-Programme Grant from the Australian Research Council's Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders. This study was also supported by the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre at University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust and the University of Bristol. The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the NIHR or the Department of Health and Social Care. Acknowledgements

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Royal Society Publishing. All rights reserved.


  • attention
  • attention training
  • adaptation
  • body dissatisfaction
  • body size
  • dot probe


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