Cognitive Therapy and Research

, Volume 39, Issue 3, pp 378–389 | Cite as

Does a Dieting Goal Affect Automatic Cognitive Processes and Their Trainability?

  • Joyce Maas
  • Ger P. J. Keijsers
  • Mike Rinck
  • Jorg Tanis
  • Eni S. Becker
Original Article


This study investigated implicit self-control dispositions—implicit approach tendencies towards low-caloric food rather than towards high-caloric food—in dieters. Action tendencies were assessed and trained using the Approach-Avoidance Task (AAT). Additionally, positive/negative affective associations [Brief Implicit Association Test (BIAT)], approach/avoidance associations (BIAT), and attentional biases [Dot Probe Task (DPT)] were assessed before and after training. Before training, dieters showed a more negative affective association with high-caloric food than non-dieters (positive/negative BIAT), consistent with the presence of self-control dispositions. On the AAT, all participants, not just dieters, showed more approach of low-caloric food than of high-caloric food. Results of neither the approach/avoidance BIAT nor the DPT showed any indication of implicit self-control dispositions. This study also investigated whether implicit self-control dispositions interfered with AAT training effects. This did not seem to be the case, as action tendencies could be strengthened even further. Moreover, training effects generalized to the DPT.


Implicit self-control dispositions Dieting goal Action tendencies Associations Attentional bias 


Conflict of Interest

Joyce Maas, Ger P. J. Keijsers, Mike Rinck, Jorg Tanis, and Eni S. Becker declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Informed Consent

All procedures followed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the responsible committee on human experimentation (institutional and national) and with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975, as revised in 2000. Informed consent was obtained from all patients for being included in the study.

Animal Rights

No animal studies were carried out by the authors for this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joyce Maas
    • 1
  • Ger P. J. Keijsers
    • 1
    • 2
  • Mike Rinck
    • 1
  • Jorg Tanis
    • 1
  • Eni S. Becker
    • 1
  1. 1.Behavioural Science InstituteRadboud UniversityNijmegenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Department of Clinical Psychological ScienceUniversity MaastrichtMaastrichtThe Netherlands

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