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Looking at the figures: Visual adaptation as a mechanism for body-size and -shape misperception


Brooks, KR and Mond, JM and Mitchison, D and Stevenson, RJ and Challinor, KL and Stephen, ID, Looking at the figures: Visual adaptation as a mechanism for body-size and -shape misperception, Perspectives on Psychological Science, 15, (1) pp. 133-149. ISSN 1745-6916 (2020) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2019 The Authors

DOI: doi:10.1177/1745691619869331


Many individuals experience body-size and -shape misperception (BSSM). Body-size overestimation is associated with body dissatisfaction, anxiety, depression, and the development of eating disorders in individuals who desire to be thinner. Similar symptoms have been noted for those who underestimate their muscularity. Conversely, individuals with high body mass indices (BMI) who underestimate their adiposity may not recognize the risks of or seek help for obesity-related medical issues. Although social scientists have examined whether media representations of idealized bodies contribute to the overestimation of fat or underestimation of muscle, other scientists suggest that increases in the prevalence of obesity could explain body-fat underestimation as a form of renormalization. However, these disparate approaches have not advanced our understanding of the perceptual underpinnings of BSSM. Recently, a new unifying account of BSSM has emerged that is based on the long-established phenomenon of visual adaptation, employing psychophysical measurements of perceived size and shape following exposure to "extreme" body stimuli. By inducing BSSM in the laboratory as an aftereffect, this technique is rapidly advancing our understanding of the underlying mental representation of human bodies. This nascent approach provides insight into real-world BSSM and may inform the development of therapeutic and public-health interventions designed to address such perceptual errors.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:body image, adaptation, distortion, vision, eating disorders, body dysmorphia, misperception
Research Division:Psychology
Research Group:Cognitive and computational psychology
Research Field:Sensory processes, perception and performance
Objective Division:Health
Objective Group:Public health (excl. specific population health)
Objective Field:Mental health
UTAS Author:Mond, JM (Dr Jon Mond)
ID Code:139512
Year Published:2020
Web of Science® Times Cited:14
Deposited By:UTAS Centre for Rural Health
Deposited On:2020-06-18
Last Modified:2020-08-17

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