Measuring attentional bias to food cues in young children using a visual search task: An eye-tracking study

John Brand, Travis D. Masterson, Jennifer A. Emond, Reina Lansigan, Diane Gilbert-Diamond

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Objective: Attentional bias to food cues may be a risk factor for childhood obesity, yet there are few paradigms to measure such biases in young children. Therefore, the present work introduces an eye-tracking visual search task to measure attentional bias in young children. Methods: Fifty-one 3-6-year-olds played a game to find a target cartoon character among food (experimental condition) or toy (control condition) distractors. Children completed the experimental and toy conditions on two separate visits in randomized order. Behavioral (response latencies) and eye-tracking measures (time to first fixation, initial gaze duration duration, cumulative gaze duration ) of attention to food and toy cues were computed. Regressions were used to test for attentional bias to food versus toy cues, and whether attentional bias to food cues was related to current BMI z-score. Results: Children spent more cumulative time looking at food versus toy distractors and took longer to locate the target when searching through food versus toy distractors. The faster children fixated on their first food versus toy distractor was associated with higher BMI z-scores. Conclusions: Using a game-based paradigm employing eye-tracking, we found a behavioral attentional bias to food vs. toy distractors in young children. Further, attentional bias to food cues was associated with current BMI z-score.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number104610
StatePublished - May 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychology(all)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Measuring attentional bias to food cues in young children using a visual search task: An eye-tracking study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this