Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Donald A. Williamson


Most cognitive behavioral theories of the eating disorders emphasize the influences of beliefs and attitudes related to body weight and shape on the development and maintenance of pathological eating and weight control behaviors. Recent research has found support for the theories and specifically for the presence of attentional, judgement, and memory biases in individuals diagnosed with eating disorders as well as women who are preoccupied with body weight (Williamson, Muller, Reas, & Thaw, 1999). This research has focused almost without exception on adult populations. However, eating disorders as well as preoccupation with body size and shape have increased in preadolescent and adolescent girls across the last few decades (Rolland, Farnill, & Griffiths, 1997; Feingold & Mazzella, 1998). The purpose of the present study was to apply methodologies used to assess biased attentional and judgement processes in adults to children and adolescents. Participants included 98 female children aged 9 to 15 years who completed an ambiguous homophones task assessing judgement biases to body, shape, and weight information as well as an emotional Stroop task modified specifically to assess body and weight attentional biases. Body shape concerns were associated with biased processing on the homophones task specific to negative body shape related information. An attentional bias was not found using the Stroop task. A reference group of 65 college-aged females also completed the experimental protocol. This group was included as a test for the homophones and Stroop task as both tasks have been used to find biased processing in this age group. Results for both tasks were consistent with previous research. The results are discussed in the context of the developmental processes underlying cognitive biases in psychological disorders.