The Thin Ideal and Body Image: An Experimental Study of Implicit Attitudes

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Thin-ideal internalization is a core construct in body dissatisfaction, central to eating disorders and generally assessed with explicit measures. To compare implicit and explicit measures of thin-ideal internalization and their relationship to body image, the authors developed a thin-ideal implicit association test (IAT). Although the IAT revealed a strong cognitive bias toward fat as negative (differences in response latencies: t[85] = 9.829, p < .001, d = 1.06), this failed to discriminate among participants on body image. In contrast, the explicit measure of thin-ideal internalization significantly correlated with body dissatisfaction (r = .39), drive for thinness (r = .29), and restraint (r = .32). Automatic associations assessed by the IAT indicated that fat is generally held as a negative attribute; thus, the thin-ideal IAT was insufficiently sensitive to predict body dissatisfaction.

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