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Behav Res Ther. 1998 Feb;36(2):227-37.

Selective attention to food-related stimuli in hunger: are attentional biases specific to emotional and psychopathological states, or are they also found in normal drive states?

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  • 1University of Cambridge, U.K.

Erratum in

  • Behav Res Ther 1998 Oct;36(10):1011.


Previous work has indicated that anxiety disorders and eating disorders are associated with selective processing of stimuli relevant to patients' concerns (e.g. Mathews and MacLeod, 1994; Annual Review of Psychology, 45, 25-50; Channon et al., 1988; British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 27, 259-260). A dot probe task was used to investigate whether attentional biases are also a feature of a normal drive state. Specifically, we examined whether hunger is associated with biases in selective attention and in pre-attentive processes for food-relevant stimuli. Subjects with high levels of hunger showed a greater attentional bias for food-related words presented in a suprathreshold exposure condition (words shown for 500 msec), in comparison with those with low hunger. There was no evidence in the present study of a hunger-related bias in pre-attentive processes (i.e. when words were shown for 14 msec and masked). Results suggest that a non-emotional motivational state, such as hunger, is associated with a bias in certain aspects of information processing, such as selective attention, for stimuli that are relevant to the motivational state. Findings are discussed in relation to recent research into emotion-related cognitive biases.

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