Research output

Reduced automatic approach tendencies towards task-relevant and task-irrelevant food pictures in Anorexia Nervosa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Associated researcher

  • Neimeijer, R. A. M.
  • Roefs, Anne

  • Glashouwer, K. A.
  • Jonker, N. C.
  • de Jong, P. J.

Associated organisations


BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Anorexia Nervosa (AN) patients are characterized by an excessive restriction of their food-intake. Prior research using an Affective Simon Task (AST) with food as a task-irrelevant feature, provided evidence for the view that AN patients' ability to refrain from food is facilitated by reduced automatic approach tendencies towards food. However, because food was task-irrelevant (i.e., participants had to base their reaction on the perspective of the picture and not on its content), the findings may in fact reflect a relatively strong ability to ignore the content of the food stimuli rather than weakened approach towards food per se. Therefore, this study also included a Stimulus Response Compatibility (SRC) task with food as task-relevant feature that could not be ignored, because the required response depended on the [food vs non-food] content of the pictures.

METHODS: AN spectrum patients (n = 63), and a comparison group of adolescents without eating pathology (n = 57) completed both a SRC task with food as task-relevant feature, and an Affective Simon Task AST with food as task-irrelevant feature.

RESULTS: AN patients showed reduced approach tendencies for high caloric food. Only the SRC uniquely predicted the presence of AN.

LIMITATIONS: Comparison between tasks was hampered because the SRC only included high caloric food stimuli, whereas the AST included high and low caloric food stimuli.

CONCLUSION: Patients with AN are characterized by weakened automatic approach of high caloric food. This might 'help' restrict their food-intake even in a condition of starvation.

    Research areas

  • AVOIDANCE, Anorexia nervosa, Approach bias, Approach tendencies, Avoidance, CHILDREN, EATING-DISORDERS, Food, HUNGER
View graph of relations


Original languageEnglish
Article number101496
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2019