Combined effects of cognitive bias for food cues and poor inhibitory control on unhealthy food intake
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The present study aimed to investigate the combined effects of cognitive bias (attentional and approach biases) and inhibitory control on unhealthy snack food intake. Cognitive biases reflect automatic processing, while inhibitory control is an important component of controlled processing. Participants were 146 undergraduate women who completed a dot probe task to assess attentional bias and an approach-avoidance task to assess approach bias. Inhibitory control was measured with a food-specific go/no-go task. Unhealthy snack food intake was measured using a so-called “taste test”. There was a significant interaction between approach bias and inhibitory control on unhealthy snack food intake. Specifically, participants who showed a strong approach bias combined with low inhibitory control consumed the most snack food. Theoretically, the results support contemporary dual-process models which propose that behaviour is guided by both automatic and controlled processing systems. At a practical level, the results offer potential scope for an intervention that combines re-training of both automatic and controlled processing.