Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Donald A. Williamson


This investigation studied the presence of an explicit memory bias for emotional body related stimuli in patients diagnosed with an eating disorder. Explicit memory refers to the recall of stimuli previously presented. Explicit memory tasks are thought to reflect cognitive elaboration mechanisms. Research on depressed patients has found a bias for recalling negatively valenced information and/or a bias against recalling positively valenced information. This study sought to extend this type of memory bias research to eating disorder patients. Three groups were examined, a group of clinical eating disordered women (n = 30), a group of weight preoccupied non-eating disordered individuals (n = 30), and a control group without an eating disorder or weight preoccupation (n = 30). Each group participated in an encoding task which presented words of three affective valences (emotional body related, non-emotional body related, and neutral). Subjects were instructed to imagine themselves in a scene involving each word. Following the encoding task, subjects were asked to recall these words in a free recall format. There was evidence of a memory bias for emotional body related words in eating disorder patients. There was no evidence for an explicit memory bias in weight preoccupied subjects. The groups did not differ in the recall of non-emotional body related or neutral words. As predicted, eating disorder patients recalled more emotional body related words than the weight preoccupied or control groups. It is possible that eating disorder patients engage in greater elaboration of emotional stimuli related to body shape and weight than weight preoccupied normals. Thus, preoccupation with body shape and weight may not be sufficient to cause an explicit memory bias. Results suggest that the influence of depression and neuroticism on explicit memory bias is minimal.