OBJECTIVE: Based on the theory of incentive sensitization, the aim of this study was to investigate differences in attentional processing of food-related visual cues between normal weight and overweight/obese males and females.METHODS: Twenty-six normal weight (14M, 12F) and 26 overweight/obese (14M, 12F) adults completed a visual probe task and an eye-tracking paradigm. Reaction times and eye movements to food and control images were collected during both a fasted and fed condition in a counterbalanced design.RESULTS: Participants had greater visual attention towards high energy dense food images compared to low energy dense food images regardless of hunger condition. This was most pronounced in overweight/obese males who had significantly greater maintained attention towards high energy dense food images when compared with their normal weight counterparts however no between weight group differences were observed for female participants.CONCLUSIONS: High energy dense food images appear to capture visual attention more readily than low energy dense food images. Results also suggest the possibility of an altered visual food cue-associated reward system in overweight/obese males. Attentional processing of food cues may play a role in eating behaviors thus should be taken into consideration as part of an integrated approach to curbing obesity.
Doolan, K. J., Breslin, G., Hanna, D., Murphy, K., & Gallagher, A. (2014). Visual attention to food cues in obesity: an eye-tracking study. Obesity, 22(12), 2501-2507. https://doi.org/10.1002/oby.20884