Date of Award

Spring 5-17-2021

Document Type

Undergraduate Honors Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts in Behavioral Neuroscience


Psychological Sciences


Dr. Veronica Galvan


Anorexia nervosa (AN) is an eating disorder characterized by a restriction of energy intake, an intense fear of gaining weight, and often distorted body image. AN has the second highest mortality rate of all psychiatric disorders, due to high suicide rates and medical complications associated with malnutrition. An estimated 10% of those who have AN die because of the disorder (Insel, 2012). Interacting factors—genetic, biological, environmental, and psychosocial—contribute to the etiology and maintenance of AN. However, outside of research settings, AN is misunderstood as having primarily environmental roots (Salafia, et. al). Blame is placed on societal expectations and the disorder is stereotyped as predominantly affecting white, affluent women. Early intervention is crucial because a longer course of illness worsens AN recovery outcome. Individuals with AN do not often self-initiate treatment, so peers play an instrumental role in seeking help on behalf of those with AN (Becker et al., 2003; Price, et. al., 1990; Sala et. al., 2013; Walsh et. al., 2000). The proposed study examines whether stereotypes impact the ability of female undergraduates to detect AN in others. The study will be conducted through the administration of vignette paragraphs describing a high school student. Each vignette contains AN cues embedded among one of three types of contextual cues. Contextual cues indicate socioeconomic (SES), environmental, or biological factors. A questionnaire will assess the ability of subjects to identify AN. It is expected that subjects will be more likely to identify AN in vignettes containing environmental and high SES cues because these align with stereotypes surrounding AN.