Psychology ETDs

Publication Date

Summer 7-15-2018


Research has found that among individuals who binge eat, overvaluation of body weight/shape and internalization of a thin ideal are associated with higher levels of distress and functional impairment. These findings suggest implicit attitudes and beliefs may play an important role in understanding the complex relations between one’s cognitions and subsequent eating behavior; however, much of the research on binge eating has relied on explicit self-report measures which may not accurately reflect the way individuals automatically process body weight/shape information or the meaning one has associated with these characteristics. The present study sought to address this gap in the literature by examining implicit and explicit attitudes toward fatness and thinness among recurrent and non-binge eating college women (N = 52). Implicit attitudes were assessed via the Implicit Relational Assessment Procedure (IRAP) using stimuli developed from previous research in disordered eating populations (Parling et al., 2012). Explicit attitudes and psychological characteristics were assessed through self-report measures. All women demonstrated significant implicit pro-thin attitudes toward self and others, regardless of binge eating status, which may be indicative of shared learning history and cultural context promoting a thin ideal. Neither group demonstrated significant implicit anti-fat attitudes. In fact, non-binge eating women demonstrated significant implicit pro-fat attitudes across three of the four IRAP preparations. Between-group differences were significant only for implicit attitudes toward others. Implicit attitudes were not significantly associated with explicit attitudes or psychological characteristics and did not significantly improve prediction of binge eating status or disordered eating behavior (all p > .05). There were discrepancies between implicit and explicit attitudes for both recurrent and non-binge eating women, but not in the hypothesized direction. Results emphasize the complexity of attitudes and difficulties surrounding the assessment of stigmatized behavior. Possible interpretations of these findings and future research directions are discussed.

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First Committee Member (Chair)

Kevin E. Vowles

Second Committee Member

Jane Ellen Smith

Third Committee Member

Katie Witkiewitz

Fourth Committee Member

Brenda L. Wolfe




binge eating, body image, disordered eating, eating disorders, implicit attitudes, IRAP

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