Cognitive behavioral models of body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) highlighted information processing biases — cognitive biases that relate to how various forms of information such as visual information are interpreted. Research at the time showed that people with BDD were more likely to emphasize smaller details over the “big picture”, which would lead to negative emotions, increased attention to details perceived as negative, and forming rituals.
This study by Dr. Greenberg and her team aimed to explore how negative visual attention bias toward self-features perceived as unattractive vs. the features of others that are perceived as attractive could impact symptoms in people with BDD. 19 participants with BDD and 20 healthy controls took part in an eye-tracking module that observed where they paid attention and measured how attractive they believed features of their own faces and those of others were. The results showed that people with BDD had a more negative attention bias overall compared to controls, spending more time focusing on their own features they perceived as “unattractive” as well as slightly more time focusing on perceived “unattractive” features of the other person. This study demonstrated that people with BDD tend to focus more on “negative” features, confirming an attention bias.
*Greenberg, J.L., Reuman, L., Hartmann, A.S., Kasarskis, I., & Wilhelm, S. (2014). Visual hot spots: An eye tracking study of attention bias in body dysmorphic disorder. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 57, 125-132. doi:10.1016/j.jpsychires.2014.06.015