College students' mental models for recognizing anorexia and bulimia nervosa

Jennifer S. Hunt, Alexander J. Rothman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Knowledge about eating disorders influences lay people's ability to recognize individuals with anorexia nervosa (AN) and bulimia nervosa (BN) and refer them to professional treatment. We assessed mental models (stored knowledge) of AN and BN in 106 college students. Results indicated that most students have general, but not specific, information about AN and BN's symptoms, consequences, causes, duration, and cures. They also believe that people with eating disorders tend to be young, White women. These findings suggest that lay recognition of eating disorders may be based primarily on observations of dysfunctional eating behaviors and therefore facilitated by additional knowledge.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)289-300
Number of pages12
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2007

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors gratefully acknowledge the research assistance of Kara Mickelson, Anne Stephanson, Jolene Wirkus, and Abby McLaughlin. Marc Kiviniemi, David DiLillo, Simone French, and Marti Hope Gonzales provided helpful feedback on earlier versions of this article. This research was supported in part by a National Science Graduate Research Fellowship to the first author.


  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Bulimia nervosa
  • Health attitudes
  • Mental models of illness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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