Abnormalities in the visual processing of viewing complex visual stimuli amongst individuals with body image concern

A. J.F. Duncum, K. J. Atkins, F. L. Beilharz, M. E. Mundy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Individuals with body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) and clinically concerning body-image concern (BICIC) appear to possess abnormalities in the way they perceive visual information in the form of a bias towards local visual processing. As inversion interrupts normal global processing, forcing individuals to process locally, an upright-inverted stimulus discrimination task was used to investigate this phenomenon. We examined whether individuals with nonclinical, yet high levels of BIC would show signs of this bias, in the form of reduced inversion effects (i.e., increased local processing). Furthermore, we assessed whether this bias appeared for general visual stimuli or specifically for appearance-related stimuli, such as faces and bodies. Participants with high-BIC (n = 25) and low-BIC (n = 30) performed a stimulus discrimination task with upright and inverted faces, scenes, objects, and bodies. Unexpectedly, the high-BIC group showed an increased inversion effect compared to the low-BIC group, indicating perceptual abnormalities may not be present as local processing biases, as originally thought. There was no significant difference in performance across stimulus types, signifying that any visual processing abnormalities may be general rather than appearance-based. This has important implications for whether visual processing abnormalities are predisposing factors for BDD or develop throughout the disorder.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-49
Number of pages11
JournalAdvances in Cognitive Psychology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Bodies
  • Body dysmorphic disorder
  • Body image
  • Faces
  • Inversion effect
  • Objects
  • Perceptual learning
  • Scenes
  • Visual processing


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