Background: Thought-Shape Fusion (TSF) and Thought-Action Fusion (TAF) are cognitive distortions that are associated with eating and obsessional pathology respectively. Both involve the underlying belief that mere thoughts and mental images can lead to negative outcomes. TSF involves the belief that food-related thoughts lead to weight gain, body dissatisfaction, and perceptions of moral wrong-doing. TAF is more general, and involves the belief that merely thinking about a negative event (e.g., a loved one getting into a car accident) can make this event more likely to happen, and leads to perceptions of moral wrong-doing. However, the shared susceptibility across related cognitive distortions-TAF and TSF-has not yet been studied.
Method: The effects of TSF and TAF inductions in women with an eating disorder (n = 21) and a group of healthy control women with no history of an eating disorder (n = 23) were measured. A repeated-measures design was employed, with all participants exposed to a TSF, TAF and neutral induction during three separate experimental sessions. Participants' cognitive and behavioral responses were assessed.
Results: Individuals with eating disorders were more susceptible to TSF and TAF than were control participants, demonstrating more neutralization behavior after TSF and TAF inductions (i.e., actions to try to reduce the negative effects of the induction), and reporting higher levels of trait TAF and TSF than did controls.
Conclusions: Individuals with eating disorders are particularly susceptible to both TAF and TSF. Clinical implications of these findings will be discussed.
Keywords: Cognitive distortion; Eating disorders; Thought-action fusion; Thought-shape fusion.