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Journal of Motivation, Emotion, and Personality

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eating disorders, sociocultural attitudes, metamotivational constructs, autic sympathy




Previous research has examined both sociocultural effects (e.g., Thompson et al., 2004) and personality influences (e.g., Cassin & von Ranson, 2005) on eating disordered behavior. However, comparatively little research has employed the theoretical framework of reversal theory (RT). The present study examined the relationship between reversal theory’s metamotivational personality constructs and risk of eating pathology, along with the mediating effects of sociocultural attitudes. A non-clinical sample of 123 undergraduate students completed the Motivational Style Profile (MSP), Sociocultural Attitudes Towards Appearance Questionnaire (SATAQ-3), Eating Attitudes Test (EAT-26), and a demographic profile. Simple t-tests suggested significant differences between males and females and the sexes were analyzed separately. The RT construct of autic sympathy (desire to be attractive and liked by others; Apter, Mallows & Williams, 1998) was determined to be a significant predictor of increased eating pathology in the female subsample. This relationship was fully mediated by sociocultural factors. Rebelliousness was also significantly and positively related to risky eating behaviors. Findings are discussed in relation to the role of reversal theory in enhancing our understanding of risks associated with, and the ability to predict, the development of eating pathology. These results may contribute to the assessment and treatment of females who engage in risky eating behavior.


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