Hungry or Stressed? Relationship between Stress and Attention for Food-related Words


  • Anneline Akkersdijk Maastricht University
  • Jolein Hallegraeff
  • Laura Angioletti
  • William Janssen
  • Laura Knops
  • Klara Lautermann
  • Cristina Milev


MAST, Attentional Bias, Food, Stroop Task, POMS


Obesity is a major health problem in western society and caused by different factors. Stress-induced eating is widely thought to increase the risk for obesity. The purpose of this study was to investigate the influence of stress on attention for food. We hypothesized that stress creates an attentional bias for high-caloric food, which can be assessed by an adapted Stroop task. This is measured by comparing reaction times for food-related words and non-food related words before and after stress. Against our expectations, we found that stress had no significantly different effect on the food word list compared to the neutral word list. Stressed and non-stressed participants turned out to be significantly slower on the food-word list than on the neutral-word list and participants were generally faster on both lists after stress. Taken together, our results show that the attentional bias for high-caloric food is not influenced by stress.