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Battle of plates: a pilot study of an approach–avoidance training for overweight children and adolescents

  • Petra Warschburger (a1), Michaela Gmeiner (a1), Marisa Morawietz (a1) and Mike Rinck (a2)

Approach–avoidance training (AAT) is a promising approach in obesity treatment. The present study examines whether an AAT is feasible and able to influence approach tendencies in children and adolescents, comparing implicit and explicit training approaches.


Fifty-nine overweight children and adolescents (aged 8–16 years; twenty-six boys) participated in an AAT for food cues, learning to reject snack items and approach vegetable items. Reaction times in the AAT and an implicit association test (IAT) were assessed pre- and post-intervention.


A significant increase in the AAT compatibility scores with a large effect (η 2=0·18) was found. No differences between the implicit and explicit training approaches and no change in the IAT scores were observed.


Automatic tendencies in children can be trained, too. The implementation of AAT in the treatment of obesity might support the modification of an unhealthy nutrition behaviour pattern. Further data from randomized controlled clinical trials are needed.

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