A Comparison of the Recognition of Facial Emotion in Women of Low Body Weight, Both With and Without Anorexia Nervosa
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Science
Facial expressions can be reliable markers of emotion, and represent an important source of social information. Consequently, the ability to judge facial expressions accurately is essential for successful interpersonal interactions. Anorexia nervosa (AN) is an eating disorder in which social difficulties are common. Past research has suggested that facial emotion recognition may be disturbed in AN, although the precise nature of this disturbance is unclear. The current study aimed to further investigate emotion recognition in AN by comparing 12 women with AN to 21 women who were constitutionally thin (CT) on the Facial Expression Recognition Test, an established computerized test of facial emotion recognition. Still photographs of faces displaying different emotional expressions and neutral expressions were presented to participants via computer screen. Participants were required to decide which emotion each face displayed from several choices. AN subjects responded faster than CT subjects to the facial emotion stimuli, regardless of which emotion was displayed. However, AN subjects did not differ from CT subjects on overall accuracy, accuracy for different emotion categories or misclassifications. Results are discussed in terms of the cognitive style of individuals with AN, recent models of socio-emotional processing, and issues of methodology.