Measurement of food-related approach-avoidance biases: Larger biases when food stimuli are task relevant
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Number of pages
SourceAppetite, 125, (2018), pp. 42-47
Article / Letter to editor
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SW OZ BSI KLP
SubjectExperimental Psychopathology and Treatment
Strong implicit responses to food have evolved to avoid energy depletion but contribute to overeating in today's affluent environments. The Approach-Avoidance Task (AAT) supposedly assesses implicit biases in response to food stimuli: Participants push pictures on a monitor "away" or pull them "near" with a joystick that controls a corresponding image zoom. One version of the task couples movement direction with image content-independent features, for example, pulling blue-framed images and pushing green-framed images regardless of content ('irrelevant feature version'). However, participants might selectively attend to this feature and ignore image content and, thus, such a task setup might underestimate existing biases. The present study tested this attention account by comparing two irrelevant feature versions of the task with either a more peripheral (image frame color: green vs. blue) or central (small circle vs. cross overlaid over the image content) image feature as response instruction to a 'relevant feature version', in which participants responded to the image content, thus making it impossible to ignore that content. Images of chocolate-containing foods and of objects were used, and several trait and state measures were acquired to validate the obtained biases. Results revealed a robust approach bias towards food only in the relevant feature condition. Interestingly, a positive correlation with state chocolate craving during the task was found when all three conditions were combined, indicative of criterion validity of all three versions. However, no correlations were found with trait chocolate craving. Results provide a strong case for the relevant feature version of the AAT for bias measurement. They also point to several methodological avenues for future research around selective attention in the irrelevant versions and task validity regarding trait vs. state variables.
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