You are on page 1of 4

Selective visual attention for body parts

during body image assessment


using a digital method

Emanuel Mian a Walter Gerbino a Silvia Ubaldi b and Andrea Serino b


a
Department of Psychology and BRAIN Centre for Neuroscience, University of Trieste, Italy
b
Department of Psychology "Centro Studi e Ricerche in Neuroscienze Cognitive", University of Bologna
(Italy)

INTRODUCTION: Body image is a broad concept that refers to


perception, cognition, attitude and behaviour toward one’s own
body.
It represents the way in whch the personal bodily appearance is
perceived (Cash & Pruzinsky, 2004).
In the present study, we combine a digital method for body image
assessement, i.e. Body Image Revealer (Mian & Gerbino, 2009)
and eye movements registration (Eye Tracker, ASL), as an index
of visual attention.
The aim of this pilot study is to explore if observers focus on
specific body parts when they evaluate and adjust previously
distorted images of their body.

METHOD: Frontal pictures of 9 female informed volunteers (mean


age (mean=18,11 ± 1,45 years)were taken at a standard 2.5 m
distance. Subjects’ weight (mean=53,63 ± 3,30 Kg) and height
(mean=162 ± 4,53 cm) were determined. Only subjects with a
normal Body Mass Index (i.e. between 18,5 and 24,9; mean=20,46
± 1,48 Kg/m2) were included.
Validated questionnaires for the assessment of eating and body
image disturbances were also administered: subjects with scores
at questionnaires indicating a possible eating disorder were
excluded.
Each participant received 18 trials divided in 4 tasks using the
Body Image Revealer: they were presented with a distorted (in
different trials either under- and over-weight simulation) picture of
their body and were requested to adjust (i.e. enlarge or reduce) the
image until it fits with: a) how they see they are (cognitive task); b)
how they feel they are (affective task); c) how they would like to
appear (optative task); d) how they think others see them
(metacognitive task). Eye movements were recorded and fixation
time for different body parts (thigh, abdomen, thorax, arms, head)
of the shown picture was measured.

RESULTS: Compared to previous studies using the Body Image


Revealer in normal controls (E. Mian, Dalle Grave, Vanderlinden,
Pieters, & Probst, 2006; E. Mian & Gerbino, 2008; E. Mian &
Gerbino, 2009),the present subjects showed no distortion in body
image perception (overestimation of body size) and normal levels
of body image dissatisfaction (Rodin, Silberstein, & Striegel-
Moore, 1985). In details, mean scores were: in the cognitive task=
2,7 % +/- 7,6; in the affective task= 7.5 % +/-10.7; in the optative
task= , -9.4% +/-15.6; in the metacognitive task=8.3 % +/- 10.9.
Eye movements data show that female subjects spent more time
looking their thighs when estimating the size of the whole image
of their body in comparison to all other body parts, suggesting that
the thigh is a critical landmark for body perception in young
women.

CONCLUSION: Further research is planned in the near future in


order to confirm the present results. The sample size will be
enlarged and male subjects will be recruited in order to evaluate
gender differences. This set of data will be used as a normative
sample to be compared with patients suffering from anorexia
nervosa and bulimia nervosa.
REFERENCES

Cash, T. F., & Pruzinsky, T. (2004).


Body Image. A handbook of thery, research & clinical practice.
New York: Guilford Press.

Cuzzolaro, M., Vetrone, G., Marano, G., & Battacchi, M. W. (1999).


BUT, Body Uneasiness Test: a new attitudinal body image scale.
Psichiatria dell'Infanzia e dell’Adolescenza(66), 417-428.

Farrell, C., Lee, M., & Shafran, R. (2005).


Assessment of Body Size Estimation:A Review.
European Eating Disorders Review(13), 75–88

Gardner, Morrell Jr., Watson, and Sandoval (1989)


Eye movements and body size judgments in the obese
International Journal of Eating Disorders Volume 9, Issue 5 , Pages537 - 544

Mian E. and Gerbino W. (2009)


Body Image Assessment in the Computer Aided Psychological Support for Eating
Disorders.
Frontiers in Neuroengineering. Conference Abstract: Annual CyberTherapy and
CyberPsychology

Mian, E., Gerbino, W.(2008)


A structured morphing technique for the assessment of body image
Proceedings of the Sense of Body- An Interdisciplinary Summer School on Body
Representation Bologna , Italy- June 2008

Mian, E., Dalle Grave, R., Vanderlinden, J., Pieters, G., & Probst, M. (2006).
Body Image assessment in eating disorder patients: testing a new digital method.
Paper presented at the International Congress on Eating Disorders, Barcelona.

Probst M, Van Coppenolle H, Vandereycken W. (1995)


The body attitude test for patients with an eating disorder: Psychometric characteristics of a
new questionnaire.
Eat Disord: J Treat Prev 1995;3:133–145

Rodin, J., Silberstein, L. R., & Striegel-Moore, R. H. (1985).


Women and weight: A normative discontent.
Paper presented at the Nebraska symposium on motivation, Lincoln: University of
Nebraska
Paper presented by first author at the 17th Kanizsa lecture: Trieste
Symposium on Perception and Cognition (30 October 2009)