Implicit attitudes toward eating stimuli differentiate eating disorder and non-eating disorder groups and predict eating disorder behaviors

April R. Smith, Lauren N. Forrest, Elizabeth A. Velkoff, Jessica D. Ribeiro, Joseph Franklin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Objective: The current study tested whether people with and without eating disorders (EDs) varied in their implicit attitudes toward ED-relevant stimuli. Additionally, the study tested whether implicit evaluations of ED-relevant stimuli predicted ED symptoms and behaviors over a 4-week interval. Method: Participants were people without EDs (N = 85) and people seeking treatment for EDs (N = 92). All participants completed self-report questionnaires and a version of the affect misattribution procedure (AMP) at baseline. The AMP indexed implicit evaluations of average body stimuli, eating stimuli, and ED-symptom stimuli. Participants with EDs completed weekly follow-up measures of ED symptoms and behaviors for 4 weeks. Results: Contrary to predictions, the anorexia nervosa (AN) group did not differ from the no ED group on implicit attitudes toward ED-symptom stimuli, and the bulimia nervosa (BN) group had less positive implicit attitudes toward ED-symptom stimuli relative to the no ED group. In line with predictions, people with AN and BN had more negative implicit attitudes toward average body and eating stimuli relative to the no ED group. In addition, among the ED group more negative implicit attitudes toward eating stimuli predicted ED symptoms and behaviors 4 weeks later, over and above baseline ED symptoms and behaviors. Discussion: Taken together, implicit evaluations of eating stimuli differentiated people with AN and BN from people without EDs and longitudinally predicted ED symptoms and behaviors. Interventions that increase implicit liking of eating-related stimuli may reduce ED behaviors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)343-351
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Eating Disorders
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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