Eye-tracking research in eating disorders: A systematic review

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Objective: Those with eating disorders (EDs) show attentional biases to disorder-relevant stimuli, such as food and body shape information. However, attentional bias research in EDs largely relies on reaction time based measures, which are limited in their ability to assess different components and the time course of attention. Eye-tracking paradigms have therefore been utilized to provide greater ecological validity, and directly capture the detailed sequence of processes in perception and attention. While numerous studies have examined eye movements in the mood, anxiety, and psychotic disorders, there has been a lack of studies in EDs. The purpose of this qualitative review is to provide a summary of eye-tracking studies in clinical ED populations. Method: The review was conducted using the PRISMA guidelines. Electronic databases were systematically searched to identify studies examining gaze parameters in ED compared to healthy controls (HCs). Thirty-one studies met inclusion criteria. Results: Across ED diagnoses, there was evidence of attentional biases towards food and body stimuli. In addition, differential patterns of attention to social information, and differences in smooth pursuit and saccadic eye movements were found in anorexia nervosa (AN). Discussion: Findings are discussed in relation to research in other psychiatric disorders, and recommendations for future studies using eye-tracking in EDs are given. The findings add to the wider literature on attentional biases in EDs, and provide potential avenues for treatment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-27
Number of pages25
JournalInternational Journal of Eating Disorders
Issue number1
Early online date23 Dec 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2019


  • attentional biases
  • body image
  • eating disorders
  • eye gaze
  • eye movements
  • social perception


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