Cognitive biases involving readiness to categorise food in terms of calorie content in anorexia nervosa

Laura Dondzilo*, Andrea Phillipou, Stephanie Miles, Nienke Jonker, Emily Jeffery, Colin MacLeod

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

Background: This research proposes that cognitive biases involving the categorisation of food in terms of calorie content may contribute to restrictive eating in anorexia nervosa (AN). The current study sought to discriminate the validity of two novel hypotheses: (1) People with AN more readily categorise food in terms of calorie content rather than in terms of alternative dimensions (e.g., tastiness), and (2) people with AN have difficulty reclassifying food initially categorised in terms of calorie content, in terms of alternative dimensions. Methods: To test these hypotheses, a novel food categorisation task was developed and delivered to people with a self-reported lifetime diagnosis of AN (N = 48) and to people with no history of an eating disorder (N = 133). Participants categorised food in terms of calorie content or tastiness. Results: Results revealed that the AN group, relative to the comparison group, was faster to categorise food in terms of calorie content and slower to reclassify food initially categorised in terms of calorie content. Conclusions: These findings suggest that AN is characterised by both an inflated tendency to categorise food in terms of calorie content and to become subsequently stuck on this categorisation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)327-336
Number of pages10
JournalCognitive Therapy and Research
Volume48
Early online date10-Jan-2024
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr-2024

Keywords

  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Classification
  • Cognitive bias
  • Cognitive flexibility
  • Eating disorders

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