Food Attention Bias: appetite comes with eating

Lilac Lev-Ari, Hamutal Kreiner, Omer Avni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Cognitive interventions may be effective in weight loss. The purpose of this study was to assess if cognitive reappraisal (CR; reframing the meaning of a stimulus in order to change the resulting emotional response), can reduce food attentional bias (FAB) using the Visual Dot Probe (VDP) paradigm. Method: 126 participants (age 27 ± 5.8) were randomly assigned either to a CR or to a control (CN) group. After assessing baseline VDP levels for FAB, participants either wrote sentences that discourage eating fattening food or neutral sentences. Next, all participants performed the VDP post intervention. Participants also self-reported on disordered eating behaviors and their height and weight were charted. We hypothesized that CR would reduce FAB and that disordered eating would moderate the association between group and FAB. Results: FAB decreased post intervention, specifically in the CR group. The bulimia sub-scale showed an interaction between bulimic eating, time and group. Among those who were high on the bulimia scale, the CR group showed lower FAB post-intervention compared to the CN group. Discussion: This study suggests that CR may decrease the attentional bias toward high-calorie food compared to other strategies in the general population and among people with high bulimia measures, in particular. Plain English summary: Obesity has a negative impact on many aspects of life and much research is dedicated to trying to better understand behaviors concerning obesity. People are prone to focus their attention on things that are of importance to them, such as food. When people focus their attention on food, we call this Food Attention Bias (FAB). Cognitive reappraisal (CR) interventions involve the person's conscious cognitive change of the meaning of the situation aiming to consequently change the emotional response to it, such as saying to yourself “I shouldn’t eat this because I don’t want to get fat”. CR has been found to be helpful in lowering FAB using brain imagining techniques but has not yet been studied in cognitive processes. Our study used a Visual dot probe paradigm (VDP) to assess the efficacy of CR on lowering FAB. Two groups, one using CR and a control group were assessed twice on FAB, using the VDP paradigm. Compared to the normal condition, the CR intervention helped reduce FAB. This reduction was especially significant for people with a higher tendency for bulimic behavior. The VDP paradigm, utilizing CR. can be expanded to help build an intervention aimed at reducing FAB over time. This, in turn might bring to weight reduction. People with bulimic tendencies might especially benefit from CR interventions when dealing with weight loss.

Original languageEnglish
Article number133
JournalJournal of Eating Disorders
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s).


  • Body dissatisfaction
  • Cognitive reappraisal
  • Disordered eating
  • Food Attention Bias
  • Moderation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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