The influence of visual attention on choice between high versus low energy food items.
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Food selection is primarily guided by the visual system. Multiple studies have investigated the link between visual attention and food choice and showed that chosen items are looked at longer. However, there is still uncertainty about the role of visual attention in healthy food choice. In this study it is examined whether manipulation of visual attention can be used to promote a healthy food choice. The study aimed (1) to investigate the influence of manipulation of visual attention, by increasing the exposure time, on food choice, (2) the difference in the effect of attention manipulation on choice between high energy [HE] and low energy [LE] food items and (3) the influence of manipulation of visual attention in HE and LE choices for dietary restraint individuals. Participants chose between two products; a HE item and LE item which were equally liked. To investigate the influence of manipulation of visual attention on HE and LE items the exposure time of one of the two items was manipulated (300ms versus 900ms). Participants selected the product they wanted. In general our findings showed that manipulating one item did not result in a choice preference for HE or LE items. However, the results show a small but non-significant effect that the manipulation is more effective for LE items. LE items might be chosen more often when manipulated. This is also the case in the dietary restraint group. The effect is too small for implementation in public health aspects. The lack of an actual effect may be due to the amount of choice pairs. It is suggested that the influence of attention manipulation on food choice is minimal. The results provide important implications for the use of attention manipulation in food selection.