Gender differences in colour naming performance for gender specific body shape images

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<ul><li><p>ORIG I NALRESEARCH</p><p>PAPER</p><p>Gender differences in colour namingperformance for gender specific bodyshape images</p><p>N.A. Elliman, M.W. Green, and W.K. WanConsumer Sciences Department, Institute of Food Research, Reading, Berks, U. K.</p><p>ABSTRACT. Males are increasingly subjected to pressures to conform to aesthetic bodystereotypes. There is, however, comparatively little published research on the aetiology omale body shape concerns. Two experiments are presented, which investigate the relationship between gender specific body shape concerns and colour-naming performance. Eachstudy comprised a between subject design, in which each subject was tested on a singleoccasion. A pictorial version of a modified Stroop task was used in both studies. Subjectscolour-named gender specific obese and thin body shape images and semantically homogeneous neutral images (birds) presented in a blocked format. The first experiment investigatedfemale subjects (N = 68) and the second investigated males (N = 56). Subjects also completeda self-report measure of eating behaviour. Currently dieting female subjects exhibited significant colour-naming differences between obese and neutral images. A similar pattern ocolour-naming performance was found to be related to external eating in the male subjects.(Eating Weight Disord. 3, 17-24, 1998). 1998, Editrice Kurtis</p><p>INTRODUCTION</p><p>Pursuit of a healthy and attractive body hasbecome increasingly more important toboth males and females in Western culture.Over the last 2 decades the average femaleunder 30 has become heavier (1), yet toachieve the ideal body shape in todays cul-ture women have to be slimmer (2). </p><p>This trend to a slimmer body shape isreflected in the enormous increase in thenumber of magazines in the U. K. dedicatedto slimming from 0 in 1966 to 10 in 1986 (3).In addition, popular magazines are increas-ingly full of articles on weight loss and dietregimes (1). At any one time in the U. K. it isestimated that 12% of women between 16and 64 are following a weight loss pro-gramme (4), and 90% have been on a weightreducing diet at some time in their lives (5).Many women express feelings of fatnessand a desire to lose weight even when theyfall in the normal weight ranges (6).</p><p>The preoccupation with weight and bodyshape amongst non-clinically eating disor-dered women has been the subject of muchinvestigation (7, 8). Men however, have beenless thoroughly studied, yet there is a grow-ing body of evidence to suggest that men are</p><p>increasingly becoming subjected to the pressures to conform to aesthetic stereotypes (911). Indeed, there is evidence to suggest thathe incidence of eating disorders hasincreased amongst males, from below 10%of cases, (12), to one paper reportingAnorexic subjects to be 27% male (13).</p><p>Overwhelmingly, the studies addressingthese concerns have used self report questionnaires such as The Dutch EatingBehaviour Questionnaire (DEBQ) (14), theEating Disorder Inventory (EDI-2) (15) andThe Body Attitude Questionnaire (BAQ) (16)It is, however, also possible to use behavioural measures to assess these concerns. Forinstance, if it is the case that these concernsrepresent enduring schemata, or cognitivestructures, they should affect the speed awhich information is processed. This hypothesis is supported by the findings of studiesusing a modification of the Stroop colournaming task (17). In this task subjects areasked to name the colours in which a set owords in an array are printed, as quickly aspossible while being timed. If it is the casethat schema related words are processedmore quickly than schema unrelated wordsbody shape and food words should becolour-named more slowly than neutra</p><p>Key words: Male, body shape, pictorialStroop, dieting, externaleating.Correspondence: N.A. Elliman, M.D.,Consumer SciencesDepartment, Institute ofFood Research, Earley Gate,Whiteknights Road, Reading,Berks. RG6 6BZ. U. K. Received: February 11, 1998Accepted: June 5, 1998</p><p>17</p></li><li><p>Body shape Stroop and gender differences</p><p>words. Female clinical eating-disordered andnon-eating disordered, high dietary restrain-ers have been shown to name body shapewords (e.g., fat, obese, plump) and foodwords (e.g., cake, cream, chocolate)more slowly than neutral words (18, 19). </p><p>An important issue in these studies is thatof an appropriate control group. Somestudies have used men as a control popula-tion (20, 21). However, concerns with bodyimage have been found in subgroups ofthis population such as sportsmen, usingself report methods to assess body imageconcerns (9, 22). Indeed, there is evidencethat males do colour-name body shaperelated words more slowly than neutralwords (23), although the variable underly-ing this effect is unclear.</p><p>The exact nature of the Stroop arrays usedmay explain why there have been severalfailures to find impaired colour-naming ofbody shape words amongst male subjects.Most studies investigating the modifiedStroop task have used verbal stimuli. Aswords chosen in the above studies werespecifically chosen to be related to the bodyshape concerns of women, these may not bea sensitive measure for males, whose bodyshape concerns may not be identical to thoseof women. It is accepted that the processingof verbal information for semantic featuresinvolves many more stages than the process-ing of symbolic or pictorial information (24).Since impaired colour-naming of body shapematerial is a function of the semantic contentof that information, it may be the case thatverbal body shape related stimuli represent arelatively insensitive index of such concernsin male subjects.</p><p>There is evidence to suggest that pictorialversions of the Stroop task reveal differ-ences in colour-naming between affectivelyvalanced and neutral stimuli. Walker, Ben-Tovim, Paddick and McNamara, (25), reporta study in which a group of DSM-III-R eat-ing disordered patients colour-named a pic-torial array of women, ranging from verythin to very fat, significantly more slowlythan a control array. This effect was not,however, demonstrated by a control popula-tion. In light of the presumed differences inaffective valence between obese and thinbody shape images (25), the failure to findimpaired colour-naming of body shapeimages amongst the control subjects may bedue to this mixing of affective valence withinthe target array. In support of this interpre-</p><p>tation, it has been found that when negativeand neutral stimuli are presented in a ran-domised fashion, rather than blocked withrespect to affective valence, the size of thecolour-naming impairment for negativestimuli is drastically reduced (26). The first ofthe current two experiments comprised aninvestigation as to whether this pictorial ver-sion of the modified Stroop task is a sensi-tive enough measure to replicate the patternof processing biases found amongst non-eating disordered dieters on a word basedversion of the Stroop task (18). The secondstudy represents an attempt to use this mea-sure to investigate the pattern of processingbiases towards body shape related stimuli inmales.</p><p>Experiment One</p><p>METHOD</p><p>SubjectsA population of 68 female undergraduatesand postgraduates aged between 18-31 yearswere recruited by advertisements placed onsports and society notice boards. All subjectsgave informed consent and the studies wereapproved by the Institute of Food ResearchHuman Ethical Research Committee. Eachsubject had normal colour vision and nor-mal, or corrected to normal, visual acuity. </p><p>Design and procedureAll subjects were tested individually, in atesting session lasting forty-five minutes.During the session subjects completed amodified version of the Stroop task, afterwhich self report measures of body imageand eating behaviour were collected. All sub-jects had their height and weight measuredwith digital scales and a stadiometer. Thepresentation order of the Stroop arrays wascounter-balanced across subjects. Subjectswere asked to name aloud the colours on theboards as quickly as possible as if they werea page of prose while being timed by a stop-watch. Prior to presentation of the test stim-ulus arrays subjects were given a practicearray. This consisted of one hundred opencircles displayed in the same manner as thetest arrays.</p><p>Stroop arraysSubjects were presented with three Strooparrays: Obese women, Thin women and a</p><p>18</p></li><li><p>N.A. Elliman, M.W. Green, and W.K. Wan</p><p>neutral matched array. Each array consist-ed of one hundred images in a ten by tenmatrix on white board. Each image com-prised of a line drawn figure printed inpink, green, purple, blue or orange. Withineach matrix, images were arranged to avoidany immediate repetition of colour orimage. The Obese women array consistedof the three largest women from the set ofline drawings by Furnham and Radley (27),the Thin women consisted of the threeslimmest women from the same set. Theneutral set consisted of three semanticallyhomogeneous line drawings from the cate-gory species of birds. </p><p>Self report measuresThe Dutch Eating Behaviour Questionnaire(DEBQ) (14) was used to identify subjectslevels of dietary restraint, external andemotional eating behaviour. The externaland emotional eating behaviour subscalesidentified subjects susceptibility to exter-nal food cues, and mood influenced eatingbehaviour. A Body Perception Index (BPI)score was obtained, using the method usedby Heilbrun and Witt (28), to obtain a mea-sure of perceived body size.</p><p>RESULTS</p><p>The subjects were classified as currentdieters, high restrainers or low to mediumrestrainers according to the procedure out-lined by Green et al. (29). Specifically, lowto medium restrainers were defined as</p><p>being those subjects scoring between 1 and3.1 on the restraint scale of the DEBQ. Highrestrainers were defined as being thosesubjects scoring 3.2 and above on this mea-sure.</p><p>Subject characteristicsMeans for BPI and Body Mass Index (BMI)are shown in Table 1.</p><p>Each of these measures was analysedusing 1-Way ANOVA, (subject group as thefactor). </p><p>BMI and BPI. There were significantgroup differences present in BMI [F (2,65)=3.53, p=0.035]. Post hoc analysis(Fishers L.S.D. test) revealed that the lowto medium DEBQ restraint group had asignificantly lower BMI than the highDEBQ restraint group, (L.S.D.=2.10,p=0.05). There were also significant groupdifferences for BPI [F (2, 65)=4.39, p=0.016].Post hoc analysis (Fishers L.S.D. test)revealed that current dieters had a lowerBPI than the high DEBQ restraint group(L.S.D.=12.90, p=0.01), and the low to medi-um DEBQ restraint group had a lower BPIthan the High DEBQ restraint group(L.S.D.=9.56, p=0.05). This indicates that theHigh DEBQ restraint group had the leastaccurate perception of their body size.Scores near 100 indicate an accurate per-ception, below 100 indicate an under esti-mation of body size and over 100 indicatean over estimation of body size. </p><p>DEBQ. There were no significant groupdifferences for Emotional eating [F (2,65)=2.32, p=0.11] or External eating [F (2,65)=2.71, p=0.74].</p><p>19</p><p>TABLE 1Mean scores for self report measures for all subject groups (SEs in brackets).</p><p>Low/Medium High Current restraint restraint dieters (N =19) (N = 32) (N = 17)</p><p>Body Mass Index (BMI) 21.98 (0.45) 24.31 (1.12) 23.98 (3.39)</p><p>External eating (DEBQ) 3.10 (0.10) 2.99 (0.10) 3.39 (0.14)</p><p>Restraint (DEBQ) 2.24 (0.11) 3.53 (0.11) 3.67 (0.16)</p><p>Emotional (DEBQ) 2.66 (0.15) 2.99 (0.15) 3.17 (0.23)</p><p>Body Perception Index (BPI) 109.95 (2.65) 99.13 (4.44) 95.91 (3.39)</p><p>* BMI Calculated as being weight kg./(height in m)2</p></li><li><p>Body shape Stroop and gender differences</p><p>Stroop performanceThe means for colour-naming times arepresented in Figure 1. </p><p>A 2-Way ANOVA (group and Stroop arrayas factors) showed a significant interaction incolour-naming times between subject groupand Stroop array, [F (4,130)=2.89, p=0.025].Post hoc analysis (Fishers L.S.D. test)revealed a significant difference betweenobese women array and the neutral array(L.S.D.=5.37, p=0.01) for the dieting group. </p><p>The influence of DEBQ emotional and external eating scales on colour-naming time</p><p>Colour-naming times were analysed usinga tertile split of both the Emotional andExternal DEBQ Scales. There was no sig-nificant effect for External eating (p&gt;0.05),there was, however, a significant interac-tion for Emotional eating [F (4,130)=2.84,p=0.027]. Analysis of the simple effectsrevealed that this interaction was due to asignificant difference for the neutral cardcolour-naming times across groups [F(2,67)=7.96, p</p></li><li><p>N.A. Elliman, M.W. Green, and W.K. Wan</p><p>themselves to be currently dieting. Themean scores for the self report measuresare presented in Table 2.</p><p>BMI and BPI. There were no significantdifferences in either BPI or BMI betweenthe high, medium and low restrained eaters(p&gt;0.05). </p><p>DEBQ. There were no differences inEmotional or External eating scoresbetween low, medium or high restrainedeaters (p&gt;0.05).</p><p>Stroop performanceColour-naming times were initiallyanalysed according to a tertile split ofDEBQ restraint scores, since no malesreported themselves to be currently diet-</p><p>ing. A 2-Way ANOVA was performed (sub-ject group and Stroop array as factors).There was found to be no significant inter-action between subject group and Strooparray, [F (4,102)=1.41, p=0.24], indicatingthat DEBQ restraint does not predict differ-ences in colour-naming interferencebetween male subjects. However, correla-tional analysis between the two interfer-ence indices (thin images - neutral and fatimages - neutral ), and DEBQ subscales,revealed a significant correlation betweenDEBQ external eating and the fat imagearray interference index [r=0.41 p</p></li><li><p>Body shape Stroop and gender differences</p><p>obese women than for arrays of thinwomen or neutral images. This replicatesprevious findings of impaired colour-nam-ing times amongst female dieters for bodyshape related words, e.g., Green andRogers (18), who classified subjects in asimilar manner as the current paper.</p><p>No differences in colour-naming timesfor gender specific thin images and neutralimages were observed in either experi-ment. The difference in colour-namingtimes for obese and thin images may bedue to the relative affective valance of theseimages. Many studies have investigatedStroop colour-naming times for negativeand positive words (31-33). In each of thesestudies negative words were colour-namedmore slowly than neutral words. The pat-tern of colour-naming times for the positivewords, however, has failed to reveal anyconsistent pattern. Mogg et al. (32) foundimpairments for both positive and negativestimuli amongst high trait-anxious subjects.On the other hand Richards et al. (31),found highly trait anxious subjects colour-named a positive array significantly morequickly than a neutral array, but they didnot colour-name the negative array signifi-cantly more slowly.</p><p>The manner of stimulus presentation mayalso influence the colour-naming times. Inthe current paper, subjects were presentedwith the emotionally salient images, positive(thin women), and negative (obese women)in separate arrays; thus, keeping the affectivevalance distinct...</p></li></ul>


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