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Negative comments and social media: How cognitive biases relate to body image concerns

Dent, Emily, Martin, Andrew K. (2023) Negative comments and social media: How cognitive biases relate to body image concerns. Body Image, 45 . pp. 54-64. ISSN 1740-1445. E-ISSN 1873-6807. (doi:10.1016/j.bodyim.2023.01.008) (KAR id:89867)


Body image concern (BIC) is a prevalent issue thought to be exacerbated by social media. In addition to sociocultural factors, cognitive biases may also contribute to BIC. We explore whether cognitive biases in memory for body image-related words, presented in a mock social-media context, are associated with BIC in young adult women. A sample of 150 University students was presented with a series of body image-related comments aimed at either themselves, a close friend, or a celebrity in a recognisable social media context. Afterwards, a surprise memory task was completed that assessed the participant’s memory for body image-related words (item memory), their insight (metamemory), and to whom a specific word was directed (source memory). Self-referential biases were identified for both item memory and source memory. Individuals with greater BIC displayed a greater self-referential bias for correctly and incorrectly sourcing negative words to themselves compared with both friend and celebrity. A greater self-referential effect in metacognitive sensitivity was also associated with higher BIC. We provide novel evidence for a cognitive bias in sourcing negative body image-related information to the self in individuals with higher BIC. The results should inform cognitive remediation programmes aimed at treating individuals with body and eating-related disorders.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1016/j.bodyim.2023.01.008
Uncontrolled keywords: covariation bias, self-reference effect, source memory, interpretation bias; metamemory
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Psychology
Funders: University of Kent (
Depositing User: Andrew Martin
Date Deposited: 08 Mar 2023 12:16 UTC
Last Modified: 10 Mar 2023 16:50 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Dent, Emily.

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Martin, Andrew K..

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