Assertiveness in women reporting symptoms of bulimia
Ruhl, Berenice L.
MetadataShow full item record
The present study investigated the assertive behavior of women reporting symptoms of bulimia. A total of 476 female students in introductory psychology classes were screened by means of the Bulimia Test (BULIT), devised in 1984 by M.C. Smith and M.H. Thelen. Twenty-three women scoring 102 or greater on the BULIT (the criterion score suggested by Smith and Thelen for a preliminary diagnosis of bulimia) completed the assertiveness portion of the experiment, as did 21 women scoring between the 33rd and 44th percentiles on the BULIT. The confederates were blind to the conditions and purposes of the experiment. The i_n vivo situation utilized in the present experiment was adapted from that developed by R.L. Higgins, M.B. Frisch, and D. Smith in 1983. In brief, each subject was left alone with a confederate who initiated an interaction. The confederate made a series of five increasingly demanding requests to borrow the subject's notes from the introductory psychology course, culminating in a request to borrow the subject's notes the night before the next examination and to return them after the examination. The confederate terminated his or her requests if the subject gave an unequivocal refusal to any request. The responses of the subject were recorded on videotape and later rated on several dimensions adapted from Higgins et al.'s work in 1983 by a judge who was blind to the conditions and purposes of the experiment. In general, women who report symptoms of bulimia were less likely than those not reporting bulimic symptoms to respond assertively when interacting with a male in the present experiment. In contrast, women who report symptoms of bulimia were as likely as women who do not report such symptoms to respond asertively in interacting with a female confederate. Similar results were obtained for subjects' responses to the most demanding request. These results suggest that assertiveness is particularly problematic for bulimic women in their interactions with men. The findings of the present study represent the first experimental evidence, obtained in a standardized behavioral assessment situation, that there are differences between bulimic and nonbulimic women with respect to assertive behavior.