Cognitive biases to appearance-related stimuli in body dissatisfaction: A systematic review Academic Article uri icon


  • Emerging literature has documented the presence of cognitive biases toward body image related stimuli among individuals with high levels of body image concerns compared to those with low levels of body image concerns. However, the robustness and nature of these cognitive biases are unclear. The aims of this study were to conduct a systematic literature search and perform a critical synthesis of studies examining the relationship between cognitive biases toward body image-related stimuli and body image concerns. Our review identified 32 studies meeting inclusion criteria. Dot-probe, Stroop, free recall, and eye-tracking were among the most frequently used paradigms. The extant literature provides robust support for the presence of attention biases toward body image-related stimuli among individuals with high levels of body dissatisfaction compared to those with lower levels of concerns. Evidence was also found for the existence of judgment biases and memory biases. Furthermore, results suggest that body image-related cognitive biases, and levels of body dissatisfaction can be manipulated. Initial evidence was also found for differential patterns of biases toward "fat" and "thin" stimuli. These findings confirm the importance of considering cognitive biases within etiological models of body image concerns and suggest that these processes might provide novel treatment targets.

publication date

  • 2016