Selective Memory Bias in the Processing of Weight, Shape and Food Related Words in Women with Bulimia Nervosa, Depression and Female Non-Clinical Controls

Hunt, Jenny (1997). Selective Memory Bias in the Processing of Weight, Shape and Food Related Words in Women with Bulimia Nervosa, Depression and Female Non-Clinical Controls. The Open University.

Abstract

Memory bias for weight and shape related words and food related words was investigated in women with bulimia nervosa, women with depression and female nonclinical controls. The aims of this study were to investigate whether women with bulimia nervosa demonstrate memory biases congruent with their primary concerns. Furthermore, and whether such biases, reflect a general bias to recall emotional information and more specifically negatively valenced emotional information, as with depression. A further aim was to replicate the findings of Sebastian et al. (1996) that memory biases in women with bulimia are specific to weight and shape-related words and not to body words in general.

Participants listened to weight, shape and food related words, and control words. They performed a self-referent encoding task and recall memory was assessed. The results indicated that women with bulimia nervosa demonstrated a bias to recall weight and shape related words compared to other word types. Memory biases were not specific to negative weight and shape words but were also found for positive weight and shape-related words. The bulimic group did not demonstrate enhanced recall for emotional words. Memory biases for food related words were not found to be specific to women with bulimia, but were also found in women with depression. In both groups recall bias for food related words was found to be related to levels of hunger. Possible explanations and the clinical implications of these findings are discussed, and future directions for research are highlighted.

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