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

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

58 Citations (Scopus)


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 methods:
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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)123-135
JournalBritish Journal of Clinical Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 2006
Externally publishedYes


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