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BACKGROUND: The processing of schema-related information is important in the maintenance of specific eating disorder (ED)-related belief systems and psychopathology. To date, most research on differences in the processing of ED schematic information has used interview or self-report questionnaire measures. Dieting is a known risk factor for EDs and dieters have been included in some studies. However, they have not been compared with non-dieters on a novel, objective measure of ED related schema processing. METHODS: The current study recruited healthy female volunteers from the community and divided them into dieting (n = 25) and non-dieting (n = 24) groups using rigorous criteria. ED self-schemas with content unrelated to eating, weight and shape were measured using a self-schema processing task. RESULTS: Dieters endorsed significantly more ED relevant words compared to non-dieters, whereas non-dieters rejected significantly more ED relevant words compared to dieters. Reaction times to endorsements and rejections were non-significant when the two groups were compared. In a surprise recall task, dieters recalled significantly more ED relevant words. CONCLUSION: The results of this study support the presence of ED self-schemas with negative content unrelated to eating, weight and shape in otherwise healthy dieters. Implications for future research and the early identification of individuals vulnerable to EDs are discussed.

Original publication




Journal article


J Eat Disord

Publication Date





Core beliefs, Dieting, schema, self-schema, Eating disorders, Information processing