A systematic review of attentional biases in disorders involving binge eating

Monika Stojek, Lisa M. Shank, Anna Vannucci, Diana M. Bongiorno, Eric E. Nelson, Andrew J. Waters, Scott G. Engel, Kerri N. Boutelle, Daniel S. Pine, Jack A. Yanovski, Marian Tanofsky-Kraff*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


Objective: Attentional bias (AB) may be one mechanism contributing to the development and/or maintenance of disordered eating. AB has traditionally been measured using reaction time in response to a stimulus. Novel methods for AB measurement include eye tracking to measure visual fixation on a stimulus, and electroencephalography to measure brain activation in response to a stimulus. This systematic review summarizes, critiques, and integrates data on AB gathered using the above-mentioned methods in those with binge eating behaviors, including binge eating, loss of control eating, and bulimia nervosa. Method: Literature searches on PubMed and PsycInfo were conducted using combinations of terms related to binge eating and biobehavioral AB paradigms. Studies using AB paradigms with three categories of stimuli were included: food, weight/shape, and threat. For studies reporting means and standard deviations of group bias scores, Hedges' g effect sizes for group differences in AB were calculated. Results: Fifty articles met inclusion criteria and were reviewed. Individuals who binge eat in the absence of compensatory behaviors show an increased AB to food cues, but few studies have examined such individuals' AB toward weight/shape and threatening stimuli. Individuals with bulimia nervosa consistently show an increased AB to shape/weight cues and socially threatening stimuli, but findings for AB to food cues are mixed. Discussion: While there are important research gaps, preliminary evidence suggests that the combination of AB to disorder-specific cues (i.e., food and weight/shape) and AB toward threat may be a potent contributor to binge eating. This conclusion underscores previous findings on the interaction between negative affect and AB to disorder-specific cues. Recommendations for future research are provided.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)367-389
Number of pages23
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Attentional bias
  • Binge eating
  • Food
  • Shape
  • Social threat
  • Weight


Dive into the research topics of 'A systematic review of attentional biases in disorders involving binge eating'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this