Biased Interpretation of Ambiguous Social Scenarios in Anorexia Nervosa

Eur Eat Disord Rev. 2017 Jan;25(1):60-64. doi: 10.1002/erv.2493.


Patients with anorexia nervosa experience increased sensitivity to the risk of social rejection. The aims of this study were to assess the interpretation of ambiguous social scenarios depicting the risk of rejection and to examine the relationship between interpretation biases and clinical symptoms. Thirty-five women with anorexia nervosa and 30 healthy eaters completed clinical questionnaires, alongside a sentence completion task. This task required participants to generate completions to ambiguous social scenarios and to endorse their best completion. Responses were rated as being negative, neutral or positive. Patients endorsed more negative interpretations and fewer neutral and positive interpretations compared with healthy eaters. The frequency of endorsed negative interpretations correlated with depression, anxiety and fear of weight gain and body disturbance. A negative interpretation bias towards social stimuli is present in women with anorexia nervosa and correlates with clinical symptoms. Interventions aimed at reducing this bias could improve illness prognosis. Copyright © 2016 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and Eating Disorders Association.

Keywords: anorexia nervosa; interpretation bias; rejection sensitivity; transdiagnostic.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anorexia Nervosa / psychology*
  • Anorexia Nervosa / therapy*
  • Anxiety
  • Bias*
  • Body Image / psychology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Depression
  • Fear
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychological Distance
  • Risk Assessment
  • Social Perception*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Weight Gain
  • Young Adult