Emotion Recognition and Set Shifting in Women with Anorexia Nervosa
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Objective: Neuropsychology models of anorexia nervosa (AN) propose that cognitive difficulties including poor Emotion Recognition (ER) and set-shifting ability may be central to the development and maintenance of eating pathology. This study aimed to test the central positions of such models by assessing specific ER difficulties in AN as well as the relationship between ER deficits and set-shifting performance. Methods: Fifty-one women were assessed (25 with AN; M = 28.20 SD = 8.69 and 26 control M = 21.27 SD = 5.10) on a novel measure of ER, a set-shifting test and self-report questionnaires concerning co-morbid factors. Results: The data did not reveal a global difference in ER or set-shifting performance between groups. Specific hypotheses of ER deficits in AN were also not met as performance on individual emotions was comparable between groups. There was an unexpected negative correlation between disgust recognition and set-shifting performance, however, this was only significant across the whole sample. ER performance was not related with any confounding factors. Conclusions: Despite an abundance of research supporting the position of social cognitive difficulties in AN, the current study failed to find global or specific deficits in ER in the present sample. Similarly, ER performance was not related to set-shifting as proposed by neuropsychological models of AN aetiology. Possible explanations for a lack of difference observed using this novel ER task are explored and future directions for evaluating ER in AN are discussed.
Doctor of Clinical Psychology