Master of Arts (MA)



Document Type



Pathological eating behaviors (PEB) and body dissatisfaction are more prevalent among women with higher social anxiety (HSA) than women with lower social anxiety (LSA). Attentional bias may play a role in these relationships. Attentional bias toward appearance is related to PEB and body dissatisfaction. Further, difficulty disengaging attention from threat is thought to maintain anxiety among HSA individuals. It follows that some HSA women may find scrutiny regarding their appearance threatening and difficulty disengaging attention from appearance cues may play an especially important role in PEB and/or body dissatisfaction among HSA women. The present study tested this theory, hypothesizing that: (1) HSA women would exhibit greater difficulty disengaging attention from appearance words than LSA women, and (2) HSA women with greater difficulty disengaging attention from appearance words would exhibit greater PEB and body dissatisfaction than HSA women with lower difficulty disengaging attention and LSA women. Difficulty disengaging was examined among 52 undergraduate women (HSA = 26, LSA = 26). Although HSA women reported higher scores on measures of PEB and body dissatisfaction than LSA women, HSA women did not exhibit more difficulty disengaging attention and difficulty disengaging did not moderate the relationships between social anxiety and PEB/body dissatisfaction. Follow-up analyses revealed that HSA women were more likely to engage in binge-eating and restricted eating than LSA women, but difficulty disengaging attention was only related to purging behaviors (regardless of social anxiety status). Among women who engaged in PEB, LSA women with higher difficulty disengaging reported the highest number of PEB.



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Committee Chair

Buckner, Julia D



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Psychology Commons