Perfectionism and selective attention predict dysmorphic concern in an Australian university population

Shevaugn Johnson, Paul Williamson, Tracey D. Wade

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: There is a paucity of research investigating the
underlying aetiological mechanisms contributing to dysmorphic concern.
In the present study, we used a multidimensional measure of
perfectionism and a dot‐probe task, borrowed from the dysmorphic concern
and body dysmorphic disorder literature, to assess associations between
subtypes of perfectionism (i.e., concerns and strivings), selective
attention towards target word stimuli (i.e., DC‐body, DC‐negative, and DC‐positive words), and dysmorphic concern. This was the first study to
simultaneously examine these predictors and to investigate specific
underlying selective attention mechanisms using probes and stimuli
relevant to dysmorphic concern. Informed by current theories, we
hypothesised that perfectionistic concerns and/or strivings and
attention bias to target stimuli would be significantly associated with
dysmorphic concern.
Method: Fifty‐seven students recruited from an Australian
university completed the dot‐probe task and self‐report measures for
perfectionism and dysmorphic concern.
Results: Doubts about actions (perfectionistic concerns), or a perfectionistic need to check details, and attention bias towards the DC‐positive words (e.g., pretty, attractive, chiselled) predicted dysmorphic concern in men and women. Perfectionism predicted most of the variance.
Conclusions: Perfectionism and selective attention predicted
dysmorphic concern, which may serve to inform the development of future
dot‐probe paradigms and early intervention programs targeting at‐risk
populations endorsing clinically significant dysmorphic concerns.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143-155
Number of pages13
JournalAustralian Psychologist
Issue number2
Early online date17 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2020


  • body dysmorphic disorder
  • detail-oriented checking
  • dot-probe task
  • dysmorphic concern
  • perfectionism
  • selective attention


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