An Information-Processing Perspective on Body Image
DONALD A. WILLIAMSON
TIFFANY M. STEWART
MARNEY A. WHITE
Over the past decade, several authors have described a cognitive information-processing model for body image in relation to eating disorders. Figure 6.1 illustrates a model that integrates our perspectives with those of Thompson and Vitousek. In this model, body image (as it is usually assessed) is one type of cognitive bias that stems from a self-schema that includes memory stores related to body size/shape and eating that are easily activated and readily accessible for retrieval from memory. This self-schema is presumed to draw the person's attention to body and food-related stimuli and to bias interpretations of self-relevant events in favor of fatness interpretations. This model postulates that disturbed body images are one type of cognitive bias that is most similar to selective interpretational biases: Individuals come to a conclusion based upon the "evidence," but the conclusion is one that is not shared by most people. The model assumes that cognitive biases occur without conscious awareness and that the person experiences the cognition as "real."
As shown in Figure 6.1, the model hypothesizes that certain types of stimuli are more likely to determine cognitive bias in "susceptible people": (1) body- or food-related information, (2) ambiguous stimuli, and (3) tasks that require self-reflection. Most body size estimation tasks, questionnaires, and naturally occurring situations that trigger "body image reactions" have