The limited efficacy of prior eating disorder (ED) prevention programs led to the development of dissonance-based interventions (DBI) that utilize dissonance-based persuasion principles from social psychology. Although DBIs have been used to change other attitudes and behaviors, only recently have they been applied to ED prevention. This article reviews the theoretical rationale and empirical support for this type of prevention program. Relative to assessment-only controls, DBIs have produced greater reductions in ED risk factors, ED symptoms, future risk for onset of threshold or subthreshold EDs, future risk for obesity onset, and mental health utilization, with some effects persisting through 3-year follow-up. DBIs have also produced significantly stronger effects than alternative interventions for many of these outcomes, though these effects typically fade more quickly. A meta-analysis indicated that the average effects for DBIs were significantly stronger than those for non-DBI ED prevention programs that have been evaluated. DBIs have produced effects when delivered to high-risk samples and unselected samples, as well as in efficacy and effectiveness trials conducted by six independent labs, suggesting that the effects are robust and that DBIs should be considered for the prevention of other problems, such as smoking, substance abuse, HIV, and diabetes care.
Stice, E., Shaw, H., Becker, C.B., & Rohde, P. (2008) Dissonance-based interventions for the prevention of eating disorders: Using persuasion principles to promote health. Prevention Science, 9(2), 114-128. doi: 10.1007/s11121-008-0093-x