Sustained effects of attentional re-training on chocolate consumption
Kemps, Eva Bertha
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Background and objectives Accumulating evidence shows that cognitive bias modification produces immediate changes in attentional bias for, and consumption of, rewarding substances including food. This study examined the longevity of these attentional bias modification effects. Methods A modified dot probe paradigm was used to determine whether alterations in biased attentional processing of food cues, and subsequent effects on consumption, were maintained at 24-h and one-week follow-up. One hundred and forty-nine undergraduate women were trained to direct their attention toward (‘attend’) or away from (‘avoid’) food cues (i.e., pictures of chocolate). Within each group, half received a single training session, the other half completed 5 weekly training sessions. Results Attentional bias for chocolate cues increased in the ‘attend’ group, and decreased in the ‘avoid’ group immediately post training. Participants in the ‘avoid’ group also ate disproportionately less of a chocolate food product in a so-called taste test than did those in the ‘attend’ group. Importantly, the observed re-training effects were maintained 24 h later and also one week later, but only following multiple training sessions. Limitations There are a number of limitations that could be addressed in future research: (a) the inclusion of a no-training control group, (b) the inclusion of a suspicion probe to detect awareness of the purpose of the taste test, and (c) the use of different tasks to assess and re-train attentional bias. Conclusions The results showed sustained effects of attentional re-training on attentional bias and consumption. They further demonstrate the importance of administering multiple re-training sessions in attentional bias modification protocols.