Enhanced capacity to switch but not to maintain: The basis of attentional bias to high calorie foods in restrained eaters

Laura Dondzilo, Caitlin Mills, Shannon Pollitt, Colin MacLeod

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1 Citation (Scopus)


It has been argued that high restrained eaters (i.e., people who fluctuate between restrictive food intake and overeating) are characterised by a heightened attentional bias to high calorie foods. However, the validity of this hypothesis has not yet been convincingly established. The current study sought to empirically evaluate this hypothesis using two directional measures of attentional bias: the well-established dot probe bias assessment task and the more novel Chase the Food bias assessment task. The latter attentional assessment approach has the capacity to differentiate between attentional switching and attentional maintenance within a complex and dynamic food environment. Participants (61 high restrained eaters and 38 low restrained eaters) completed the dot probe task and the Chase the Food task. Findings obtained on the dot probe task did not reveal a group difference in terms of biased attentional responding towards high calorie vs. low calorie food. Conversely, the two groups were found to differ on one of the measures obtained on the Chase the Food task. Specifically, high restrained eaters, as compared to low restrained eaters, demonstrated speeded attentional switching to high calorie foods, rather than a greater ability to maintain attention on high calorie foods when required to do so. These novel findings imply that high restrained eaters are potentially characterised by facilitated attentional switching towards high calorie foods. Implications are discussed including the possibility of targeting biased attentional switching using training variants of the Chase the Food task in interventions designed to reduce maladaptive eating behaviours.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105969
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2022


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