In eating disorders (EDs), interest commonly focuses on eating, weight, and shape rather than on beliefs. In this study, we investigated the importance of negative self-beliefs in EDs by examining whether manipulating those beliefs would elicit symptom-relevant change. The technique cognitive-bias modification is ideal for this purpose because it permits experimental manipulation of beliefs. Using content derived from the clinical literature, we applied cognitive-bias modification to a sample of 88 subclinical participants. Results demonstrated a wide range of effects, including significant change in target beliefs, ED behaviors, related intrusive thoughts, anxiety, and depression, some of which were maintained at 1-week follow-up. Although one measure of ED symptoms remained unaltered, our data nevertheless evidence a causal role of negative self-beliefs in ED pathology and suggest that future work in clinical samples is warranted, including identification of factors determining susceptibility to the technique.
- cognition and emotion, emotional-processing biases, psychopathology, eating disorders, negative self-beliefs cognitive-bias modification