Attentional bias for food cues in advertising among overweight and hungry children

F Folkvord, DJ Anschutz, Moniek Buijzen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Attentional bias theory suggests that an increased motivation to receive or avoid a rewarding substance elevates automatic selective attention toward cues that are related to that specific substance. Until now, no study has examined attentional bias toward food cues in food advertisements, even though these are designed to grab the attention of possible consumers and induce craving and eating behavior. This study aims to examine if overweight and hungry children have an attentional bias for food cues when exposed to food advertising. A randomized between-subject design was used with 95 children (age: 7- 10 years) who played an advergame that promoted either energy-dense snacks or nonfood products. While playing, eye-movements to food or nonfood cues were recorded to assess attentional bias. We found that overweight children had a higher gaze duration for the food cues (P < 0.05, Cohen's d = 0.72) compared to normal weight children. We found no effects of overweight for number of fixations and latency of initial fixation for the food cues. No effects were found of overweight on the attentional bias measurements for the nonfood cues. Furthermore, hungrier children had a higher gaze duration (P < 0.05, Cohen’s f2 = 0.18), a higher number of fixations (P < 0.05, Cohen's f2 = 0.19), and a faster latency of initial fixation on the food cues than less hungry children (P < 0.05, Cohen's f2 = 0.15), whilewe found the opposite results for the nonfood cues. Food cues trigger attention to a larger extent among overweight and hungrier children. The findings largely confirm our expectations, adding important knowledge to existing literature about attentional bias theory.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)141-162
Number of pages22
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes

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