Repelling recollections: Disgust-driven avoidant processing of body-related autobiographical memories

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Many women suffer from a persistent negative body image. To explain this persistence, this dissertation investigated the role of (self-)disgust. As a first step, it was tested whether women with a negative body image experience feelings of (self-)disgust towards their own bodies. The results showed that there is a moderate to strong association between self-disgust and body image concerns. Disgust is highly persistent and prompts people to engage in all kinds of behaviors to avoid the nasty feelings of disgust. Such avoidance might prevent negative views of one's own body from being adjusted. In this way, (self-)disgust could be an important factor contributing to the maintenance of the negative body image. As a second step, women with and without body image concerns were asked to recall memories about their own bodies. Memories of women with body image concerns contained more features of disgust and evoked stronger disgust and avoidance reactions than memories of women without body image concerns. The tendency to avoid thinking about the disgusting memories prevents a person from getting used to the feelings of disgust and from adjusting the negative meaning of those memories. To address the persistence of the negative body image, it therefore seems crucial to ensure that habituation to feelings of disgust can take place by preventing avoidance. Hopefully, this will help not only to reduce (self-)disgust, but also to adjust the negative meaning of body memories and help form a more positive body evaluation.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of Groningen
  • de Jong, Peter, Supervisor
  • Wessel, Ineke, Co-supervisor
  • Glashouwer, Klaske, Co-supervisor
Award date21-Sept-2023
Place of Publication[Groningen]
Publication statusPublished - 2023

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