The influence of non-clinical eating-related psychopathology on the recognition of emotion from static faces and realistic social interactions

Deborah J. Wallis, Nathan Ridout, Emma Sharpe

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Emotion recognition deficits have consistently been reported in clinical and sub-clinical disordered eating. However, most studies have used static faces, despite the dynamic nature of everyday social interactions. The current aims were to confirm previous findings of emotion recognition deficits in non-clinical disordered eating and to determine if these deficits would be more evident in response to static as compared to dynamic emotional stimuli. We also aimed to establish if these emotion recognition deficits could be explained by comorbid psychopathology (depression, anxiety or alexithymia). Eighty-nine females were assigned to groups based on scores on the Eating Disorders Inventory (EDI); high (n = 45) and low (n = 44). Participants were presented with emotional faces and video clips portraying fear, anger, disgust, sadness, happiness, surprise and neutral affect. As predicted, the high EDI group correctly recognised fewer emotional displays than did the low EDI group. However, this deficit was not more evident for negative as opposed to positive emotions. Furthermore, the deficit was not larger for static stimuli in comparison to dynamic. Overall emotion recognition accuracy was negatively associated with Drive for Thinness, but not Bulimia or Body Dissatisfaction. Importantly, the emotion recognition deficits observed in the high EDI group and that were associated with eating disorder symptoms were independent of depression, anxiety and alexithymia. Findings confirm that even minor elevations in disordered eating are associated with poorer emotion recognition. This is important, as problems in recognition of the emotional displays of others are thought to be a risk factor for clinical eating disorders.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-24
JournalEating Behaviors
Early online date31 Jan 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2018

Bibliographical note

© 2018, Elsevier. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International


  • Facial emotion recognition
  • Eating psychopathology
  • Disordered eating
  • Drive for thinness
  • Anger


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