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Measuring food-related attentional bias

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-21, 03:10 authored by Stefania FranjaStefania Franja, McCrae, AE, Jahnel, T, Gearhardt, AN, Stuart FergusonStuart Ferguson

Objective: Food-related attentional bias has been defined as the tendency to give preferential attention to food-related stimuli. Attentional bias is of interest as studies have found that increased attentional bias is associated with obesity; others, however, have not. A possible reason for mixed results may be that there is no agreed upon measure of attentional bias: studies differ in both measurement and scoring of attentional bias. Additionally, little is known about the stability of attentional bias over time. The present study aims to compare attentional bias measures generated from commonly used attentional bias tasks and scoring protocols, and to test re-test reliability.

Methods: As part of a larger study, 69 participants (67% female) completed two food-related visual probe tasks at baseline: lexical (words as stimuli), and pictorial (pictures as stimuli). Reaction time bias scores (attentional bias scores) for each task were calculated in three different ways: by subtracting the reaction times for the trials where probes replaced (1) neutral stimuli from the trials where the probes replaced all food stimuli, (2) neutral stimuli from the trials where probes replaced high caloric food stimuli, and (3) neutral stimuli from low caloric food stimuli. This resulted in three separate attentional bias scores for each task. These reaction time results were then correlated. The pictorial visual probe task was administered a second time 14-days later to assess test-retest reliability.

Results: Regardless of the scoring use, lexical attentional bias scores were minimal, suggesting minimal attentional bias. Pictorial task attentional bias scores were larger, suggesting greater attentional bias. The correlation between the various scores was relatively small (r= 0.13–0.20). Similarly, test-retest reliability for the pictorial task was poor regardless of how the test was scored (r = 0.20–0.41).

Conclusion: These results suggest that at least some of the variation in findings across attentional bias studies could be due to differences in the way that attentional bias is measured. Future research may benefit from either combining eye-tracking measurements in addition to reaction times.


Publication title

Frontiers in Psychology








Wicking Dementia Research Education Centre


Frontiers Research Foundation

Place of publication


Rights statement

Copyright 2021 Franja, McCrae, Jahnel, Gearhardt and Ferguson. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) license.

Repository Status

  • Open

Socio-economic Objectives

Overweight and obesity; Preventive medicine