This study aimed to: i) determine if the attention bias towards angry faces reported in eating disorders generalises to a non-clinical sample varying in eating disorder-related symptoms; ii) examine if the bias occurs during initial orientation or later strategic processing; and iii) confirm previous findings of impaired facial emotion recognition in non-clinical disordered eating. Fifty-two females viewed a series of face-pairs (happy or angry paired with neutral) whilst their attentional deployment was continuously monitored using an eye-tracker. They subsequently identified the emotion portrayed in a separate series of faces. The highest (n=18) and lowest scorers (n=17) on the Eating Disorders Inventory (EDI) were compared on the attention and facial emotion recognition tasks. Those with relatively high scores exhibited impaired facial emotion recognition, confirming previous findings in similar non-clinical samples. They also displayed biased attention away from emotional faces during later strategic processing, which is consistent with previously observed impairments in clinical samples. These differences were related to drive-for-thinness. Although we found no evidence of a bias towards angry faces, it is plausible that the observed impairments in emotion recognition and avoidance of emotional faces could disrupt social functioning and act as a risk factor for the development of eating disorders.
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- eating disorders
- disordered eating