The role of attentional bias in obesity and addiction

Matt Field*, Jessica Werthmann, Ingmar Franken, Wilhelm Hofmann, Lee Hogarth, Anne Roefs

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Objectives: The purpose of this article is to critically evaluate the following claims derived from contemporary theoretical models of attentional bias (AB) for food-and drug-related stimuli: (a) AB is a characteristic feature of obesity and addiction, (b) AB predicts future behavior, (c) AB exerts a causal influence on consummatory behavior, and (d) AB reflects appetitive motivational processes. Method: A focused discussion of the relevant literature is presented. Results: The available evidence reveals inconsistencies with the aforementioned claims. Specifically, AB is not consistently associated with individual differences in body weight or drug use, AB does not consistently predict or influence distal consummatory behavior, and AB may be influenced by both appetitive and aversive motivational processes. These insights are synthesized into a theoretical account that claims that AB for food-and drug-related stimuli arises from momentary changes in evaluations of those stimuli that can be either positive (when the incentive value of the food or drug is high), negative (when individuals have a goal to change their behavior, and those stimuli are perceived as aversive), or both (when individuals experience motivational conflict, or ambivalence). Conclusions: The proposed theoretical synthesis may account for the contributions of appetitive and aversive motivational processes involved in self-regulatory conflicts to AB, and it yields testable predictions about the conditions under which AB should predict and have a causal influence on future consummatory behavior. This has implications for the prediction and modification of unhealthy behaviors and associated disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)767-780
Number of pages14
JournalHealth Psychology
Volume35
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2016

Keywords

  • ambivalence
  • attentional bias
  • conflict
  • craving
  • evaluation
  • SMOKING-RELATED CUES
  • NORMAL-WEIGHT CONTROLS
  • DRUG-SEEKING BEHAVIOR
  • FOOD-ASSOCIATED CUES
  • SELECTIVE ATTENTION
  • HEAVY DRINKERS
  • EYE-TRACKING
  • EXPERIMENTAL MANIPULATION
  • CHOCOLATE CONSUMPTION
  • EMOTION REGULATION

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