Br J Clin Psychol. 2006 Mar;45(Pt 1):123-35.

I see what you see: the lack of a self-serving body-image bias in eating disorders.

Jansen A, Smeets T, Martijn C, Nederkoorn C.

Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Maastricht, The Netherlands.


Eating-disordered subjects feel unattractive, and the current idea is that this feeling reflects a distorted body image. A distorted body image requires a mismatch between the negative self-judgments and more objective judgments of the body. DESIGN AND


To examine whether eating-disordered subjects have valid reasons for their feelings of unattractiveness, the body images of eating-symptomatic subjects and control models were compared with inter-subjective evaluations of these bodies given by two community samples (panels; N=72, N=88).


Although the objective body sizes of the eating-symptomatic subjects were in the normal range and not different from control bodies, the first panel rated the (headless) bodies of the eating-symptomatic subjects as less attractive. This finding was replicated with the second panel. There was also large agreement between the eating-symptomatic subjects and the second panel on the specific body parts that were indicated as unattractive. Contrary to the eating-symptomatic subjects, the control models showed a strong positively biased perception of their own attractiveness: they rated their own bodies more positively than others rated them.


Consensual validation of the harsh body appraisals of eating-symptomatic subjects was found. Interestingly, the normal controls were the ones that showed a biased body image; they rated themselves far more attractive than other people rated them. These data suggest that the real problem in eating disorders is not a distorted body image but a lack of a distorted body image, that is, the lack of a self-serving body-image bias.

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