Reliability and convergence of approach/avoidance bias assessment tasks in the food consumption domain

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Abstract

Theories of motivation posit that people will more readily approach positive or appetitive stimuli, and there has been growing interest in the relationship between biases in approach and avoidance behaviours for food cues and food craving and consumption behaviour. Two paradigms commonly employed by research to investigate this relationship are the approach-avoidance task (AAT) and the stimulus-response compatibility task (SRCT). However, it is yet to be determined whether the measures yielded by these tasks reflect the same processes operating in the food craving and consumption domain. The present study examined the internal reliability and convergence of AAT and SRCT paradigms in their assessment of biased approach to unhealthy compared with healthy food stimuli, and whether the measures yielded by the AAT and SRCT paradigms demonstrated associations with individual differences in food craving and eating behaviour. One hundred twenty-one participants completed an SRCT, an AAT using an arm movement response mode, and an AAT using a key-press response mode. The measures yielded comparable and acceptable levels of internal consistency, but convergence between the different task bias scores was modest or absent, and only approach bias as measured with the AAT task using an arm movement response mode was associated with self-report measures of eating behaviour and trait food craving. Thus, tasks did not converge strongly enough to be considered equivalent measures of approach/avoidance biases, and the AAT task using an arm movement response seems uniquely suited to detect approach biases argued to characterise maladaptive eating behaviour and craving.

Original languageEnglish
JournalQuarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 6 Jul 2022

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