Can attentional bias modification inoculate people to withstand exposure to real-world food cues?
Abstract Two experiments investigated whether attentional bias modification can inoculate people to withstand exposure to real-world appetitive food cues, namely television advertisements for chocolate products. Using a modified dot probe task, undergraduate women were trained to direct their attention toward (attend) or away from (avoid) chocolate pictures. Experiment 1 (N = 178) consisted of one training session; Experiment 2 (N = 161) included 5 weekly sessions. Following training, participants viewed television advertisements of chocolate or control products. They then took part in a so-called taste test as a measure of chocolate consumption. Attentional bias for chocolate was measured before training and after viewing the advertisements, and in Experiment 2 also at 24-h and 1-week follow-up. In Experiment 2, but not Experiment 1, participants in the avoid condition showed a significant reduction in attentional bias for chocolate, regardless of whether they had been exposed to advertisements for chocolate or control products. However, this inoculation effect on attentional bias did not generalise to chocolate intake. Future research involving more extensive attentional re-training may be needed to ascertain whether the inoculation effect on attentional bias can extend to consumption, and thus help people withstand exposure to real-world palatable food cues.
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