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Body Image Distortion in Men (RDF19/HLS/PSY/CORNELISSEN)

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, January 25, 2019
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Is body image distortion in men driven by variation in perceived body fat and muscle mass or, as in women, perceived body fat alone?

Body image distortion is a principal diagnostic criterion for eating disorders (ED). Most women with EDs believe themselves to be fatter than is objectively true. Therefore, the measurement of body image distortion in women need only consider variation in body fat. However, body image distortion in men is associated with a wider set of pathologies which include eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia, but also muscle dysmorphia and other obsessional desires for excessive muscle mass.

Men’s bodies vary in body composition (i.e. the relative proportion of total fat to skeletal muscle mass) considerably more than women’s do. Therefore, to assess body image distortion adequately in men, you will develop biometrically accurate stimuli which allow males to estimate their body size/shape by manipulating both body fat and muscle mass. From a large sample of men, you will obtain state-of-the-art 3D body-shape scans and Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry body composition measures to generate CGI stimuli which reflect body shape changes that depend on body composition.

In the main experiments, you will use these or similar stimuli in psychophysical tasks, together with psychometric control tasks. You will elucidate how body image distortion varies along the two dimensions of body composition in men who have EDs, conditions like muscle dysmorphia and healthy controls. By including eye movement recordings, you will reveal what regions of the body are attended to when males judge body size/shape. Finally, you will use these insights to adapt a cognitive bias training program to ameliorate men’s body image, distorted along the body fat or muscle dimension, or both.

The project involves national (Universities of Lincoln and Stirling) and European (University of Udine, Italy) collaborators.

Eligibility and How to Apply:

Please note eligibility requirement:
• Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
• Appropriate IELTS score, if required.
• Applicants cannot apply for this funding if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere.

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see

Please note: All applications must include a covering letter (up to 1000 words maximum) including why you are interested in this PhD, a summary of the relevant experience you can bring to this project and of your understanding of this subject area with relevant references (beyond the information already provided in the advert).

Deadline for applications: Friday 25 January 2019

Start Date: 1 October 2019

Northumbria University is an equal opportunities provider and in welcoming applications for studentships from all sectors of the community we strongly encourage applications from women and under-represented groups.

Faculty: Health and Life Sciences
Department: Department of Psychology
Principal Supervisor: Dr Katri Cornelissen

Funding Notes

The studentship is available to Home/EU students where a full stipend, paid for three years at RCUK rates (for 2018/19, this is £14,777 pa) and full fees.


Cornelissen KK, McCarty K, Cornelissen PL & Tovée MJ (2017) Body size estimation in women with anorexia nervosa and healthy controls using 3D avatars. Scientific Reports, 7(1), 15773. DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-15339-z. IF = 4.26

Gledhill LJ, Cornelissen KK, Cornelissen PL & Tovée MJ (2016) An interactive training program to treat body image disturbance. British Journal of Health Psychology. DOI: 10.1111/bjhp.12217. IF = 2.55

Cornelissen KK, Cornelissen PL, Hancock PJB & Tovée MJ (2016) Fixation patterns, not clinical diagnosis, predict body size over-estimation in eating disordered women and healthy controls. International Journal of Eating Disorders. DOI: 10.1002/eat.22505. IF = 3.57

Cornelissen KK, Gledhill LJ, Cornelissen PL & Tovée MJ (2016) Visual biases in judging body weight. British Journal of Health Psychology. DOI: 10.1111/bjhp.12185. IF = 2.55

Cornelissen KK, Bester A, Cairns P, Tovee MJ and Cornelissen PL (2015) The influence of personal BMI on body size estimations and sensitivity to body size change in anorexia spectrum disorders. Body Image, 13, 75-85. IF = 2.93

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