Eating Disorders and Addiction
The ‘eating group’ examines causal and maintaining psychological mechanisms of eating disorders and obesity. The research involves a large number of related projects, linked by the overall aim of elucidating the psychological mechanisms of overeating, craving, weight control, dieting, starvation, body loathing and so on. Also, the effects of manipulation of these mechanisms are studied, e.g. in experimental treatment studies. Some current areas of interest include: cognitive processes and biases leading to food cravings and body dissatisfaction, dietary restraint and its role in overeating (is restraint a cause or a consequence of overeating or are both related in another way?), food cue reactivity and overeating/starvation, negative affect and overeating, the learning of taste preferences, sensory-specific satiety, self-control, the willingness to work for food, working memory deficits and excessive drinking, thought-shape fusion, and the cognitive and behavioural treatment of eating disorders and obesity.
For example, in several experiments we found that food cue exposure increases overeating whereas enduring exposure to tasty foods with response prevention, i.e., smelling the food intensely without eating, reduces craving and appetite. It is a very robust and counterintuitive finding; why is appetite reduced after food cue exposure without eating? Also of interest are the clinical implications of this finding.
Another line of research shows that eating disordered patients lack a positive body image bias. Healthy normal females were found to be characterised by a self-serving or rose-coloured interpretation of their own beauty, whereas eating disordered participants appeared to be quite realistic in their own evaluations. Eye movement registrations show that the eating disordered participants in particular focused on their own ‘ugly’ body parts, whereas healthy controls focus on their own ‘beautiful’ body parts. When looking at somebody else, this pattern is reversed: eating disordered participants focus on one others ‘beautiful’ body parts, whereas the healthy controls focus on one others ‘ugly’ body parts. What is the causal status of this looking pattern for body satisfaction? These are just two randomly chosen examples of all the exciting research and thrilling studies of the eating group.