Category: Obsessive Compulsive and Related Disorders

Symposium

Biases in Social Cognition in Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Friday, November 17
1:45 PM - 3:15 PM
Location: Sapphire Ballroom K & L, Level 4, Sapphire Level

Keywords: Body Dysmorphic Disorder | Information Processing
Presentation Type: Symposium

Research on the social cognitive biases underlying body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is extremely limited. Given the significant social interference and high levels of social anxiety associated with BDD, more research is needed to investigate the degree to which social information processing is impaired in BDD. The current study examined social perception deficits (e.g., emotion inference and discrimination, and face memory) in BDD. We hypothesized that people with BDD would perform worse on all social perception tasks compared to controls. Patients with BDD (n=16, mean age=31.44 years) and healthy volunteers (n=29, mean age=30.07 years) enrolled in a study to examine oxytocin as a biomarker of social cognitive impairment in BDD (oxytocin results are forthcoming). In addition to a battery of self-report measures, participants completed computerized social perception tasks assessing various social cognitive abilities: Queen Square Face Discrimination Task (discriminating faces and emotions), Cambridge Face Memory Task (CFMT; remembering and identifying faces from different angles), Reading the Mind in the Eyes (RMET; inferring complex emotions through the eye region), and Morphed Face Emotion Identification Task (identifying basic emotions), on the TestMyBrain.org website. Groups did not differ by age, gender, race, education, or marital status. Contrary to hypotheses, individuals with BDD showed no differences on any task relative to controls, except on the RMET. Individuals with BDD were actually more accurate in inferring others’ complex mental states, compared to controls, t(43)=2.08, p=.04. Interpersonal sensitivity (as measured by the Interpersonal Sensitivity Measure) also moderated the relationship between group and CFMT performance, F(1,37)=6.11, p=.02, as BDD patients with high interpersonal sensitivity performed better on the CFMT compared to those with low interpersonal sensitivity, but still performed similarly to healthy controls. Results suggest that people with BDD may have intact social perception abilities, and may be more accurate in decoding complex mental states of others and remembering faces, especially if they are interpersonally sensitive. 

Angela Fang

Assistant in Psychology, Instructor in Psychiatry
Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School

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