Attentional Bias and Response Inhibition in Obese Individuals: A Systematic Review (#193)
With the prevalence of overweight individuals having quadrupled since the 1980’s, the obesity epidemic continues to exert strain on society and its health care systems. There has been a substantial amount of research attempting to discern cognitive components that may be implicated in, or predictive of, the onset of obesity. Researchers have postulated a link between the increased frequency of energy-rich, highly salient food information in our environment and the development of aberrant cognitive processing in obese individuals. Of particular interest to this review were studies investigating two self-regulatory cognitive components, attention and response inhibition, both of which are thought to have implications for the modulation of food-related emotion and behaviour. This review examined twenty-six studies, each of varying methodology, concerning attentional biases and differences in response inhibition towards food-related stimuli in obese compared with normal weight individuals. Results proved to be inconsistent, and somewhat contradictory. Eight out ten studies provided at least partial support for the existence of attentional biases while six out of sixteen studies identified a decreased response inhibition in obese compared to normal weight individuals. Results seem to be highly influenced by differences in studies’ methodology. The aetiology of obesity is acknowledged to be a complex and heterogeneous issue, however continued research in this field is paramount in developing society’s knowledge of the causal constructs driving weight gain in order to develop successful prevention and treatment interventions.