Desire lies in the eyes: attention bias for chocolate is related to craving and self-endorsed eating permission

Jessica Werthmann*, Anne Roefs, Chantal Nederkoorn, Anita Jansen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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The present study tested the impact of experimentally manipulated perceived availability of chocolate on attention for chocolate stimuli, momentary (state) craving for chocolate and consumption of chocolate in healthy weight female students. It was hypothesized that eating forbiddance would be related to attentional avoidance (thus diminished attention focus on food cues in an attempt to prevent oneself from processing food cues) and that eating motivation would be related to attentional approach bias (thus maintained attentional focus on food cues). High chronic chocolate cravers (n = 40) and low cravers (n = 40) participated in one of four perceived availability contexts (required to eat, forbidden to eat, individual choice to eat, and 50% chance to eat) following a brief chocolate exposure. Attention for chocolate was measured using eye-tracking; momentary craving from self-report; and the consumption of chocolate was assessed from direct observation. The perceived availability of chocolate did not significantly influence attention allocation for chocolate stimuli, momentary craving or chocolate intake. High chocolate cravers reported significantly higher momentary craving for chocolate (d = 1.28, p <.001), and showed longer initial duration of gaze on chocolate, than low cravers (d = 0.63, p < .01). In contrast, participants who indicated during the manipulation check that they would not have permitted themselves to eat chocolate, irrespective of the availability instruction they received, showed significantly less craving (d = 0.95, p < .01) and reduced total dwell time for chocolate stimuli than participants who permitted themselves to eat chocolate (d = 0.53, p < .05). Thus, this study provides evidence that attention biases for food stimuli reflect inter-individual differences in eating motivation, - such as chronic chocolate craving, and self-endorsed eating permission.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-89
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2013


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