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Individuals with disordered eating display heightened attentional biases towards food- and body-related stimuli. However, it is unknown whether these attentional biases reflect maladaptive thinking/eating pathology. We investigated the differences between maladaptive and adaptive ways of thinking about food by assessing food- and body-related attentional biases among individuals with disordered eating, participants with peanut allergies (i.e., individuals who think frequently about food in an adaptive manner), and healthy controls. We also examined the extent to which negative mood and rumination exacerbated attentional biases among those in these groups. Three hundred and twenty-one individuals with disordered eating (n = 139), peanut allergies (n = 60), and healthy controls (n = 122) completed food- and body-based Stroop tasks prior to and following a cognitive rumination task designed to increase negative mood. Individuals with disordered eating and individuals with peanut allergies had significantly worse performance on the food and body Stroop tasks relative to healthy controls at baseline (ps < .001). However, there were no perceived differences in performance by group following rumination. The cognitive rumination task heightened negative mood for those in the disordered eating group but not for those in the peanut allergy or healthy control groups. Findings suggest that frequent thoughts involving food are associated with attentional biases towards food and body stimuli. This appears to be the case regardless of whether these frequent thoughts are due to disordered eating or to fear of an allergic reaction. Copyright © 2021 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Melissa J Dreier, Shirley B Wang, Matthew K Nock, Jill M Hooley. Attentional biases towards food and body stimuli among individuals with disordered eating versus food allergies. Journal of behavior therapy and experimental psychiatry. 2021 Dec;73:101657

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PMID: 34004497

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