Attentional bias for reward and punishment in overweight and obesity: The TRAILS study
More than 80% of obese adolescents will become obese adults, and it is therefore important to enhance insight into characteristics that underlie the development and maintenance of overweight and obesity at a young age. The current study is the first to focus on attentional biases towards rewarding and punishing cues as potentially important factors. Participants were young adolescents (N = 607) who were followed from the age of 13 until the age of 19, and completed a motivational game indexing the attentional bias to general cues of reward and punishment. Additionally, self-reported reward and punishment sensitivity was measured. This study showed that attentional biases to cues that signal reward or punishment and self-reported reward and punishment sensitivity were not related to body mass index or the change in body mass index over six years in adolescents. Thus, attentional bias to cues of reward and cues of punishment, and self-reported reward and punishment sensitivity, do not seem to be crucial factors in the development and maintenance of overweight and obesity in adolescents. Exploratory analyses of the current study suggest that the amount of effort to gain reward and to avoid punishment may play a role in the development and maintenance of overweight and obesity. However, since the effort measure was a construct based on face validity and has not been properly validated, more studies are necessary before firm conclusions can be drawn.