Objective: The aim of the current study was to investigate attention biases for food cues, craving, and overeating in overweight and healthy-weight participants. Specifically, it was tested whether attention allocation processes toward high-fat foods differ between overweight and normal weight individuals and whether selective attention biases for food cues are related to craving and food intake.
Method: Eye movements were recorded as a direct index of attention allocation in a sample of 22 overweight/obese and 29 healthy-weight female students during a visual probe task with food pictures. In addition, self-reported craving and actual food intake during a bogus "taste-test" were assessed.
Results: Overweight participants showed an approach-avoidance pattern of attention allocation toward high-fat food. Overweight participants directed their first gaze more often toward food pictures than healthy-weight individuals, but subsequently showed reduced maintenance of attention on these pictures. For overweight participants, craving was related to initial orientation toward food. Moreover, overweight participants consumed significantly more snack food than healthy-weight participants.
Conclusion: Results emphasize the importance of identifying different attention bias components in overweight individuals with regard to craving and subsequent overeating.