The dot-probe task (DPT) is a reaction time measure of attentional bias. Research using this task has found inconsistent patterns of appearance-related attentional biases in women. This study examined the effects of a novel priming variation of the DPT, which incorporated additional cues into each trial of the task, on measurement of such biases. The study also examined associations between these biases and body image, a component of eating disorder symptomatology. A convenience sample of women from the general community (N = 103) completed body image measures online and attended a laboratory session to complete one of four DPTs: (1) an appearance-cued DPT containing images of thin-ideal models between each trial; (2) neutral-cued DPT containing images of forests; (3) time-delayed DPT controlling for time in place of an image; or (4) typical DPT containing only word stimuli. Women who completed the appearance-cued DPT demonstrated a stronger attentional bias for positive, but not negative, appearance words than women who completed the other DPT versions. Furthermore, for the appearance-cued and time-delayed DPTs, this bias correlated with poorer body image across several indicators (appearance evaluation, body dissatisfaction, self-evaluative salience of appearance, and state body satisfaction). Although it was unexpected that no attentional bias for negative-appearance words was found, the attentional bias for positive-appearance words may suggest that effects were driven by the ego-threat of positive-appearance words. Further research is warranted to determine whether such biases contribute to and maintain body image disturbance and disordered eating.
International Journal of Eating Disorders / Vol. Article in press