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Interpretation bias modification to reduce body dissatisfaction - a randomized controlled pilot study in women with elevated weight and shape concerns

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Silvia Bradatsch, Marlene Dorit Vahl, Rachel Potterton, Gemma Gordon, Ulrike Schmidt, Timo Brockmeyer

Original languageEnglish
Article number34
Pages (from-to)34
JournalJournal of Eating Disorders
Issue number1
Published2 Jul 2020

Bibliographical note

© The Author(s) 2020.

King's Authors


Background: Recent research has identified several cognitive biases in patients with eating disorders, such as a tendency to interpret ambiguous information about one's own body in a negative way. The so-called "negative interpretation bias" is considered to be a key factor in maintaining maladaptive cognitions and behaviors in eating disorders. Studies on modification of the negative interpretation bias in eating disorders have yielded mixed results. This randomized controlled pilot study examined whether a specially adapted, computerized version of the Scrambled Sentences Task modifies negative interpretation bias in women with elevated body dissatisfaction.

Methods: The sample consisted of 40 normal-weight women with elevated body dissatisfaction, randomly assigned either to an intervention or a no-intervention control group (each n = 20). The intervention group received six sessions (within two weeks) of a newly-developed interpretation bias modification training that involved unscrambling positively valenced, body image-related sentences. The control group received no intervention. In both groups, body image-related negative interpretation bias (main outcome), trait body dissatisfaction and thin-ideal cue reactivity were assessed at baseline and two weeks later. Additionally, in the intervention condition, the trajectory of expected reductions in the thin-ideal internalization was measured during each training session.

Results: In both conditions, body image-related negative interpretation bias and trait body dissatisfaction decreased significantly from pre- to post-assessment; however, a specific effect imparted by the interpretation bias modification training was not found. Groups did not differ in thin-ideal cue reactivity. In the intervention group, thin-ideal internalization decreased significantly over the training sessions.

Conclusions: The findings do not support use of body image-related interpretation bias modification in its current form in the treatment of body dissatisfaction. Further research involving different versions of the training and clinical samples is warranted.

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