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OBJECTIVES: Emotional processing has rarely been investigated in those "at risk" of developing an eating disorder. This study investigated the processing of six basic emotions depicted on faces in an "at risk" group, compared to a control group. DESIGN: Participants were women with high (N=29) and low (N=23) levels of eating disorder symptoms who were not taking psychotropic medication. A well characterised computerised task (Facial Expression Emotion Task) was administered to all participants. RESULTS: Women with high levels of eating disorder symptoms, compared to those with low levels, were less accurate at recognising happy and neutral faces, but showed no differences in their accuracy at recognising other emotions. They also showed a trend to be less good at discriminating anger, but better at discriminating surprise from other emotions. Depressive and anxious symptoms did not provide a complete explanation for the findings. CONCLUSIONS: The findings support the inclusion of emotional processing in models of eating disorders, and suggest that it may have a role in their development. Emotional processing warrants further investigation particularly in those "at risk" but also in those with eating disorders.

Original publication




Journal article


Eat Behav

Publication Date





389 - 397


Adult, Analysis of Variance, Demography, Emotions, Facial Expression, Feeding and Eating Disorders, Female, Humans, Pattern Recognition, Visual, Surveys and Questionnaires, Time Factors, Young Adult