Impairment in local and global processing and set-shifting in body dysmorphic disorder

Academic Article


  • Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is characterized by distressing and often debilitating preoccupations with misperceived defects in appearance. Research suggests that aberrant visual processing may contribute to these misperceptions. This study used two tasks to probe global and local visual processing as well as set-shifting in individuals with BDD. Eighteen unmedicated individuals with BDD and 17 non-clinical controls completed two global-local tasks. The embedded figures task requires participants to determine which of three complex figures contains a simpler figure embedded within it. The Navon task utilizes incongruent stimuli comprised of a large letter (global level) made up of smaller letters (local level). The outcome measures were response time and accuracy rate. On the embedded figures task, BDD individuals were slower and less accurate than controls. On the Navon task, BDD individuals processed both global and local stimuli slower and less accurately than controls, and there was a further decrement in performance when shifting attention between the different levels of stimuli. Worse insight correlated with poorer performance on both tasks. Taken together, these results suggest abnormal global and local processing for non-appearance related stimuli among BDD individuals, in addition to evidence of poor set-shifting abilities. Moreover, these abnormalities appear to relate to the important clinical variable of poor insight. Further research is needed to explore these abnormalities and elucidate their possible role in the development and/or persistence of BDD symptoms. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd.
  • Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Kerwin L; Hovav S; Hellemann G; Feusner JD
  • Start Page

  • 41
  • End Page

  • 50
  • Volume

  • 57
  • Issue

  • 1