Eating psychopathology and cognitive functioning

Tatsi, Eirini (2013) Eating psychopathology and cognitive functioning. Masters thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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The nature and scope of the current thesis is to cross-culturally explore whether non-eating disordered females with a restrained eating style exhibit deficits in executive functioning. A mediating role of potential mechanisms has been further investigated within this thesis. In contrast to the previous studies, this research is the first investigation which employs a well-established self-report measure of executive functions grounded in the everyday environment, rather than laboratory measures based on Baddeley’s model of working memory. The findings have clearly provided evidence for cultural- and dietary restraint-related differences on the domain of executive functions (EF). Overall, English females have reported poorer performance on components of a self-reported EFs, except on Emotional Control than Greeks. Restrained eaters have found to perform worst on all components of EFs than unrestrained eaters. More specifically, this research has revealed that nationality has an overall impact on EFs; and in particular on i) emotional control, namely on the way people modulate their emotional responses in everyday life, ii) self-monitor, specifically the extent to which people observe their own attitudes and behaviours and the negative effects of these on others, iii) working memory, specifically adults ability to hold information in mind for the purpose of completing a task, and iv) task-monitor, namely the degree to which people keep track of their own problem-solving success or failure. With the exception of emotional control, these nationality-related differences on self- and task-monitor, as well as WM are at least partially mediated by or co-vary with BMI, preoccupying thoughts about food, diet, and body shape, depressive symptoms, and fluid intelligence. Regarding restrained eating, the current research has provided evidence for its negative role on i) shift, ii) initiate and ii) working memory. These findings suggest that females with a restrained eating style face difficulties in their flexibility related to shifting problem-solving set, to begin a task or activity, and to independently generate ideas, responses, or problem-solving strategies, as well as difficulties on their working memory performance. When the variance attributable to BMI, preoccupying cognitions, depression, and fluid intelligence, the observed differences within the restrained eating group on shift, initiate, and working memory have been reduced. To conclude, the findings presented in this thesis point to potentially fruitful directions which future research in the domain of eating psychopathology and cognitive functioning within non-clinical populations cross-culturally might follow.

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