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Drive for Thinness Versus Fear of Fat: Approach and Avoidance Motivation Regarding Thin and Non-thin Images in Women

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Internalization of sociocultural attitudes regarding the so-called virtues of thinness and vices of fatness can lead to two motivational orientations: drive for thinness and fear of fat. The current study assessed drive for thinness and fear of fat, via approach and avoidance motivation towards thin-ideal and non-thin bodies respectively, and also the relation between these approach-avoidance tendencies and key eating disorder-related constructs. Participants were 95 female undergraduate students. Results revealed an approach bias for thin-ideal bodies and an avoidance bias for non-thin bodies. Furthermore, a greater approach bias towards thin-ideal bodies was associated with greater body dissatisfaction, thin-ideal internalization, and dietary restraint whilst controlling for body mass index. An avoidance bias away from non-thin bodies did not significantly correlate with any eating disorder-related constructs. These findings imply that drive for thinness may be more relevant than fear of fat as a risk factor for eating disorder symptoms in women.

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Correspondence to Laura Dondzilo.

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Laura Dondzilo, Elizabeth Rieger, Nishani Jayawardena and Jason Bell declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Ethics approval to conduct this study was provided by the University of Western Australia Human Research Ethics Committee. All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

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Dondzilo, L., Rieger, E., Jayawardena, N. et al. Drive for Thinness Versus Fear of Fat: Approach and Avoidance Motivation Regarding Thin and Non-thin Images in Women. Cogn Ther Res 43, 585–593 (2019).

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