Distorted body image is wired in to our brains?

I came across an interesting news article in The Guardian where an experiment was being carried out in order to deduce how the mind perceives the shape of one’s hand, with interesting and consistent results: the hand in the mind’s eye is distorted and is seen to be much wider with fingers that are much shorter than in reality.

A study suggests our brains have highly distorted representations of the size and shape of our own hands. The distortion may extend to other body parts, skewing body image


“It’s interesting to note that what we find for the hand is that the representation seems to be ‘too fat’. If there’s an implicit default representation of the brain to perceive the body as overly wide, then that could potentially account for the pattern you get with eating disorders.”

I wonder if this research can be taken further — do we, as a population, also view others parts of the body with equal distortion? Why do we seem to see the hand as “fatter” and is this due to society’s opinions on thinness or the general dissatisfaction of our bodies that affects probably a majority of the population? (i.e. is this a result of culture or society?). Also, how do people diagnosed with eating disorders differ in their distortion compared to matched healthy individuals?

It’s an interesting article, which perhaps highlight some of the biological influences due to the wiring of our brain that may make others more susceptible to developing an eating disorder.