There is emerging evidence that attentional biases are related to the consumption of substances such as alcohol and tobacco, and that attentional bias modification can reduce unwanted consumption of these substances. We present evidence for the first time to our knowledge that the same logical argument applies in the food and eating domain. We conducted two experiments that used a modified dot probe paradigm to train undergraduate women to direct their attention toward ("attend") or away from ("avoid") food cues (i.e., pictures of chocolate). In Experiment 1, attentional bias for chocolate cues increased in the "attend" group, and decreased in the "avoid" group. Experiment 2 showed that these training effects generalized to novel, previously unseen chocolate pictures. Importantly, attentional retraining affected chocolate consumption and craving. In both experiments, participants in the "avoid" group ate less chocolate in a so-called taste test than did those in the "attend" group. In addition, in Experiment 2, but not in Experiment 1, the "attend" group reported stronger chocolate cravings following training, whereas the "avoid" group reported less intense cravings. The results support predictions of cognitive- motivational models of craving and consumption that attentional biases play a causal role in consumption behavior. Furthermore, they present a promising avenue for tackling unwanted food cravings and (over)eating.
- Attentional bias modification
- Dot probe task
- Food cues