A new perspective on the body: the effect of visual perspective on body representation.

Project: Other projectMiscellaneous project

Project Details


MRC application: In modern society, obesity and disordered eating, such as anorexia, are growing problems with high mortality rates compared to other psychiatric conditions, suggesting that 20% of sufferers will die prematurely from the illness. These problems not only impact on people's health but they also have a high economic cost for the society at large. For these reasons we need to learn more about what causes unhealthy and disordered eating behaviour so that we can help with prevention and improve treatments. One of the key factors thought to drive unhealthy eating behaviour is emotion felt towards our body. Society idealises a very slim body, particularly for women, which is largely unachievable for most people. Thus, perceived overweight can make people feel worse about their bodies as they do not meet societies ideals. However, perceived overweight of others and so feeling relatively slim in comparison, can actually make people feel better about themselves.
Within this project I aim to examine whether the visual angle that we view bodies from can influence affective and perceptual judgments of our own and others' bodies. Viewing others' bodes as our own may make us associate this information more readily with the self. Whereas viewing our own body as if it was another person may allow a more objective appraisal of our body image.
In healthy people, reported aesthetic judgments as well as changes in own body satisfaction will be examined when viewing ideal and overweight bodies from a direct and an observer point of view, allowing a clearer picture of how and when negative feelings towards our body occur. In separate experiments I will also measure brain activity via MRI scanners whilst viewing slim and overweight bodies form different visual perspective to establish the neural networks that underlie these affective and perceptual judgments of bodies, specifically looking at brain regions that have been implicated in anorexia nervosa.

Finally, we will exploit the ability of the virtual body illusions to effect emotion felt towards the body by exploring the potential to use the illusions in therapy. I will investigate whether the illusion of owning a healthy sized body can help increase motivation for weight loss in obesity, and whether a body swap illusion that allows people to view their body as an observer, can stimulate a more accurate judgment of the body in anorexia patients and whether this relates to underlying neural mechanisms. Such perceptual and emotional changes in these groups may help encourage healthier eating behaviour and make attainment of an actual healthy body achievable. Therefore, the results of this project can enhance understanding the psychology behind obesity and eating disorders with possible clinical impacts for developing future preventative and treatment approaches.
Short titleBody Perspective
StatusNot started