Covariation bias refers to the phenomenon of overestimating the contingency between certain stimuli and negative outcomes, which is considered as a heuristic playing a role in the maintenance of certain types of psychopathology. In the present study, an attempt was made to investigate covariation bias within the context of eating pathology. In a sample of 61 female undergraduates, . a priori and . a posteriori contingencies were measured between pictures of obese and slim bodies, on the one hand, and fear- or disgust-relevant outcomes, on the other hand. Results indicated that participants in general displayed an . a priori and an . a posteriori covariation bias reflecting an overestimation of the link between obese bodies and disgust-relevant outcomes. However, this bias was not related to eating disorder symptomatology. Meanwhile, eating pathology was positively associated with . a priori covariation biases referring to the associations between obese bodies and fear-relevant outcomes, and between slim bodies and disgust-relevant outcomes. All in all, these findings suggest that covariation bias plays a role in eating pathology.

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Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry: a journal of experimental psychopathology
Department of Psychology