Unconscious schemas, bulimic tendencies and the influence of subliminal abandonment and unification cues on eating

Kathleen Mairet, Simon Boag*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


    Recent research suggests that negative schemas (i.e., core beliefs) that are not directly related to eating, shape and weight may play an important role in bulimia's manifestation (Jones, Harris & Leung, 2005). Since these schemas may be prevented from awareness due to defensive processes, subliminal stimulation may be an effective means for treatment and serve as an adjunct to current therapies. To examine this, a sample of one hundred and twenty undergraduate women was divided into one of three visual subliminal stimuli groups: an abandonment related cue "lonely", a unification cue "friendship" or a neutral cue "gallery". After subliminal stimulus presentations participants were then left alone for 5 minutes with a bowl of biscuits to eat and the weight eaten was recorded. Contrary to what was predicted, women who received the subliminal abandonment cue did not eat significantly more than women in the control group. Furthermore, mixed support was found for Waller and Barter's (2005) suggestion that women presented with a subliminal unification cue would eat significantly less than the women in the control group. While an overall difference was not found, women in the unification group who spoke English as a second language ate significantly less than those women in the control group. The implications of the findings for both theory and treatment concerning bulimia are discussed, along with suggestions for future research.

    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationPersonality and Individual Differences
    Subtitle of host publicationTheory, Assessment, and Application
    EditorsNiko Tiliopoulos, Simon Boag
    Place of PublicationHauppauge, NY
    PublisherNova Science Publishers
    Number of pages14
    ISBN (Print)9781611220704
    Publication statusPublished - 2011


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