Skip to main page content
Access keys NCBI Homepage MyNCBI Homepage Main Content Main Navigation
. 2020 Feb 14;12(2):492.
doi: 10.3390/nu12020492.

Food-Related Attentional Bias in Individuals With Normal Weight and Overweight: A Study With a Flicker Task

Free PMC article

Food-Related Attentional Bias in Individuals With Normal Weight and Overweight: A Study With a Flicker Task

Francesca Favieri et al. Nutrients. .
Free PMC article


The primary purpose of the present study was to investigate attentional biases for food-related stimuli in individuals with overweight and normal weight using a flicker paradigm. Specifically, it was tested whether attention allocation processes differ between individuals with overweight and normal weight using transient changes of food-related and neutral pictures. Change detection latencies in objects of central interest (CI) or objects of marginal interest (MI) were measured as an index of attention allocation in a sample of fifty-three students with overweight/obesity and sixty students with normal weight during a flicker paradigm with neutral, hypercaloric and hypocaloric food pictures. Both groups of participants showed an attentional bias for food-related pictures as compared to neutral pictures. However, the bias was larger in individuals with overweight than in individuals with normal weight when changes were of marginal interest, suggesting a stronger avoidance of the food-related picture. This study showed that food-related stimuli influence attention allocation processes in both participants with overweight and normal weight. In particular, as compared to individuals with normal weight, those with overweight seem to be characterised by a stronger attentional avoidance of (or smaller attention maintenance on) food-related stimuli that could be considered as a voluntary strategy to resist food consumption.

Keywords: change blindness; flicker task; food-related attentional bias; normal weight; overweight.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any financial or commercial relationship that could be a potential conflict of interest.


Figure 1
Figure 1
Examples of the stimuli. All the changes were deletion type. In half trials, the changes were of Central Interest (CI; subfigure a) and half of Marginal Interest (MI; subfigure b). The black circle indicates which item appears and disappears during the flicker sequence.
Figure 2
Figure 2
Mean (± SE) of indices of bias considering reaction time in the two groups.
Figure 3
Figure 3
Mean (±SE) of indices of bias considering the number of errors in the two groups of participants (* p < 0.05).

Similar articles

See all similar articles


    1. World Health Organization Body Mass Index—BMI. [(accessed on 28 May 2019)]; Available online:
    1. Polivy J., Herman C.P., Coelho J.S. Caloric restriction in the presence of attractive food cues: External cues, eating, and weight. Phys. Behav. 2008;94:729–733. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2008.04.010. - DOI - PubMed
    1. Hill J.O., Peters J.C. Environmental contributions to the obesity epidemic. Science. 1998;280:1371–1374. doi: 10.1126/science.280.5368.1371. - DOI - PubMed
    1. Havermans R.C. Pavlovian craving and overeating: A conditioned incentive model. Curr. Obes. Rep. 2013;2:165–170. doi: 10.1007/s13679-013-0053-z. - DOI
    1. Rapee R.M., Heimberg R.G. A cognitive-behavioral model of anxiety in social phobia. Behav. Res. Ther. 1997;35:741–756. doi: 10.1016/S0005-7967(97)00022-3. - DOI - PubMed