Published On: 27/06/2017|Categories: 2013–2017, Vol.38 (2), Vol.38 (2017)|

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Recent years have seen an increasing interest in the cognitive approach to eating disorders, which postulates that patients selectively attend to information associated with eating, body shape, and body weight. The unreliability of self-report measures in eating disorders due to strong denial of illness gave rise to experimental studies inspired by research into anxiety disorders involving attentional bias, with the prevalent method being a modified color-naming Stroop task. Unfortunately, that tool was shown to exhibit many limitations, especially in terms of attentional bias measurement. Thus, researchers started to seek alternative methods of evaluating attention in persons with eating disorders. Along with the Stroop test and the Posner paradigm, one of the most frequently used methods is the dot probe task. This paper presents the dot probe protocol as well as the rationale underpinning its use, including its advantages and drawbacks. Furthermore, a modification of the task is proposed to enable the assessment of all components of attentional bias in patients with eating disorders. The paper also discusses practical implications of the modification for the treatment of these patients. For several years now there has been an increasingly widespread use of so-called attentional training employing, amongst others, the dot probe task, which may be modified for the purpose of reducing or eliminating of attentional biases in patients with eating disorders. Unfortunately, due to the absence of studies providing a reliable account of all types of attentional bias in eating disorders, this field of research lags considerably behind anxiety research and does not enable therapeutic applications.

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