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Body size over-estimation in women with anorexia nervosa is not qualitatively different from female controls

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Piers Cornelissen, Dr Martin Tovee


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Over-estimation of body size is a cardinal feature of anorexia nervosa (AN), usually revealed by comparing individuals who have AN with non-AN individuals, the inference being that over-estimation is pathological. We show that the same result can be reproduced by sampling selectively from a single distribution of performance in body size judgement by comparing low BMI individuals with normal BMI individuals. Over-estimation of body size in AN is not necessarily pathological and can be predicted by normal psychophysical biases in magnitude estimation. We confirm this prediction in a dataset from a morphing study in which 30 women with AN and 137 control women altered a photograph of themselves to estimate their actual body size. We further investigated the relative contributions of sensory and attitudinal factors to body-size overestimation in a sample of 166 women. Our results suggest that both factors play a role, but their relative importance is task dependent.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Cornelissen PL, Johns A, Tovée MJ

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Body Image

Year: 2013

Volume: 10

Issue: 1

Pages: 103-111

Print publication date: 01/01/2013

ISSN (print): 1740-1445

ISSN (electronic): 1873-6807

Publisher: Elsevier BV


DOI: 10.1016/j.bodyim.2012.09.003


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