Can Attentional Retraining to Healthy Food Reduce Consumption of Unhealthy Food?
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Literature has predominately focused on the idea that attentional biases to food cues are a significant predictor of food consumption (Boutelle et al, 2014). This insight has allowed research to examine how attentional bias modification can be used to reduce consumption of health harming substances (Kemps et al, 2014). Logically, attentional bias modification has been applied to food cues (Boutelle et al, 2014), with modified visual probe tasks being the most widely used procedure (Kemps, Tiggemann, & Hollitt, 2014). However, research examining this notion have largely used unhealthy food cues to retrain attention (Kemps et al, 2010, Kemps, Tiggemann, & Hollitt, 2014, Hardman et al, 2013, Boutelle et al, 2014), thus leaving a gap in literature that examines the effects of healthy food cues. Therefore, the aim of the present study was to build upon the limited research examining the effects of attentional bias and healthy food cues, and to determine if an individual’s food consumption is influenced as a result. It was hypothesised that an attend healthy condition would have a decreased attentional bias to unhealthy food cues after training, in addition to an attend neutral condition showing no change in attentional bias to unhealthy food cues. Furthermore, it was hypothesised that the attend healthy condition would have a lower food consumption than the attend neutral condition, in a later tasting session. Thirty participants (18 females and 12 males) were recruited for the study. Participants first completed three visual probe tasks consisting of pre-training, training, and post-training. After completion, participants were asked to take part in a tasting session. A two-way ANOVA was carried out to assess the changes in attentional bias in both conditions. Results indicated that although the attend healthy condition demonstrated a decrease in attentional bias to unhealthy food cues, it was not a significant change. Additionally, the attend neutral condition showed an increase in attentional bias towards unhealthy food cues, with results being significant. To assess food consumption in both conditions, a t-test was conducted which found that the attend healthy condition consumed less than the attend neutral condition. However, these results were also not significant. In conclusion, although some of the methods used in the current study have limitations, it has provided further insight into the influence of healthy food cues on attentional bias and food consumption. Future research should aim to eliminate the current limitations of the study to investigate the full effects of healthy food cues on attentional bias and food consumption.
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