Biases in the Processing of Different Forms of Threat in Bulimic and Comparison Women


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Abstract

This study uses Stroop methodology to investigate cognitive biases in the processing of five different forms of threat in bulimic and comparison women. The processing of different forms of threat was found to be relatively independent, which suggests that the measures do not tap a unitary threat construct. As predicted, the bulimic women showed a greater general attentional bias (interference effect) than the comparison women in color-naming threatening words. In the bulimic women, an attentional bias for specific forms of threat was positively correlated with bulimic psychopathology. A strong association was found between bulimic characteristics and sensitivity to self-directed ego-threats and a less robust association with sensitivity to autonomy threats (threats to personal control). The clinical implications of these findings are discussed in light of recent formulations of bulimia, which suggest that a function of bingeing and vomiting is to reduce the individual's awareness of threat (e.g., aversive emotional states).

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