Visual attention to food cues in obesity: an eye-tracking study.

Katy J Doolan, Gavin Breslin, Donncha Hanna, Kate Murphy, Alison Gallagher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Citations (Scopus)


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.

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.

Participants had greater visual attention towards high‐energy‐density food images compared to low‐energy‐density food images regardless of hunger condition. This was most pronounced in overweight/obese males who had significantly greater maintained attention towards high‐energy‐density food images when compared with their normal‐weight counterparts however no between weight group differences were observed for female participants.

High‐energy‐density food images appear to capture visual attention more readily than low‐energy‐density 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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2501-2507
Number of pages6
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 8 Sept 2014


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