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Emotional processing, recognition, empathy and evoked facial expression in eating disorders: An experimental study to map deficits in social cognition

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Valentina Cardi, Freya Corfield, Jenni Leppanen, Charlotte Rhind, Stephanie Deriziotis, Alexandra Hadjimichalis, Rebecca Hibbs, Nadia Micali, Janet Treasure

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0133827
JournalPL o S One
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 7 Aug 2015

King's Authors


Background: Difficulties in social cognition have been identified in eating disorders (EDs), but the exact profile of these abnormalities is unclear. The aim of this study is to examine distinct processes of social-cognition in this patient group, including attentional processing and recognition, empathic reaction and evoked facial expression in response to discrete vignettes of others displaying positive (i.e. happiness) or negative (i.e. sadness and anger) emotions. Method: One hundred and thirty-eight female participants were included in the study: 73 healthy controls (HCs) and 65 individuals with an ED (49 with Anorexia Nervosa and 16 with Bulimia Nervosa). Self-report and behavioural measures were used. Results: Participants with EDs did not display specific abnormalities in emotional processing, recognition and empathic response to others' basic discrete emotions. However, they had poorer facial expressivity and a tendency to turn away from emotional displays. Conclusion: Treatments focusing on the development of non-verbal emotional communication skills might be of benefit for patients with EDs.

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