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While effects of hunger on motivation and food reward value are well-established, far less is known about the effects of hunger on cognitive processes. Here, we deployed the emotional blink of attention paradigm to investigate the impact of visual food cues on attentional capture under conditions of hunger and satiety. Participants were asked to detect targets which appeared in a rapid visual stream after different types of task irrelevant distractors. We observed that food stimuli acquired increased power to capture attention and prevent target detection when participants were hungry. This occurred despite monetary incentives to perform well. Our findings suggest an attentional mechanism through which hunger heightens perception of food cues. As an objective behavioral marker of the attentional sensitivity to food cues, the emotional attentional blink paradigm may provide a useful technique for studying individual differences, and state manipulations in the sensitivity to food cues.
Published by Elsevier Ltd.