This study addresses the effects of emotional valence on selective processing of body-shape related words in young women who suffer from anorexia, bulimia, or obesity, and non-clinical controls. Research in the area of emotional Stroop interference has indicated that persons with eating disorders, particularly anorectics, show elevated latencies in naming colors of words related to food or body-shape, in contrast to either neutral words, or to non-clinical control groups. One intriguing issue regarding the emotional Stroop interference among various clinical populations relates to the question of whether the interference is due to the emotionality of the relevant words or to their valence. In addition, limited studies have been done on bulimia and obesity, and emotional Stroop interference. Overall, the Stroop task demonstrated utility in measuring emotional interference in persons with and without eating disorders. This study found that words with positive valence, regardless of Stroop word category, were processed relatively quickly by all participants. The control group demonstrated the shortest response latency, as compared to the eating disorder group, who took significantly longer to respond. This effect was shown regardless of valence or category of the words. Additionally, this study lends support to the Body Shape Questionnaire as a measure of eating disorder severity, and emphasizes the importance of including body image in the evaluation and treatment of eating disorders. The various levels of eating disorder concerns among the obese participants support the psychologically heterogeneous nature of the obese population. It is hoped that this study prompts further examination into the subgroups within the obese population with regards to the cognitive processing of emotional data in relation to body image disturbance. Furthermore, the study may sharpen the understanding of the cognitive schema of eating disorders and, through further research, their susceptibility to treatment. In addition, the findings can prompt the development of a practical and independent measure for the severity of eating disorders, recovery, and for identification of specific concerns, particularly related to body image, among individuals who are afflicted by these life threatening diseases.

LLU Discipline

Clinical Psychology


Clinical Psychology


Graduate Studies

First Advisor

Mary-Catherin Freier

Second Advisor

Todd Burley

Third Advisor

Robin Butler

Fourth Advisor

Ari Cohen

Fifth Advisor

Paul Haerich

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Level


Year Degree Awarded


Date (Title Page)




Library of Congress/MESH Subject Headings

Eating Disorders -- women; Obesity -- psychology; Body Image; Emotions; Anorexia Nervosa -- psychology; Bulimia Nervosa -- psychology



Page Count

xi; 127

Digital Format


Digital Publisher

Loma Linda University Libraries

Usage Rights

This title appears here courtesy of the author, who has granted Loma Linda University a limited, non-exclusive right to make this publication available to the public. The author retains all other copyrights.


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Loma Linda University. Del E. Webb Memorial Library. University Archives