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Cognitive biases to healthy and unhealthy food words predict change in BMI

Calitri, R., Pothos, E. M., Tapper, K. , Brunstrom, J. M. & Rogers, P. J. (2010). Cognitive biases to healthy and unhealthy food words predict change in BMI. Obesity, 18(12), pp. 2282-2287. doi: 10.1038/oby.2010.78


The current study explored the predictive value of cognitive biases to food cues (assessed by emotional Stroop and dot probe tasks) on weight change over a 1-year period. This was a longitudinal study with undergraduate students (N = 102) living in shared student accommodation. After controlling for the effects of variables associated with weight (e.g., physical activity, stress, restrained eating, external eating, and emotional eating), no effects of cognitive bias were found with the dot probe. However, for the emotional Stroop, cognitive bias to unhealthy foods predicted an increase in BMI whereas cognitive bias to healthy foods was associated with a decrease in BMI. Results parallel findings in substance abuse research; cognitive biases appear to predict behavior change. Accordingly, future research should consider strategies for attentional retraining, encouraging individuals to reorient attention away from unhealthy eating cues.

Publication Type: Article
Publisher Keywords: Adolescent, Adult, Attention, Body Mass Index, Body Weight, Cognition, Cues, Diet, Emotions, Female, Food, Humans, Longitudinal Studies, Male, Obesity, Questionnaires, Reaction Time, Word Association Tests, Young Adult
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
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