Studies indicate an attentional bias towards food in binge-eating disorder (BED); however, more evidence on attentional engagement and disengagement and processing of multiple attention-competing stimuli is needed. This study aimed to examine visual attention to food and non-food stimuli in BED. In n
= 23 participants with full-syndrome and subsyndromal BED and n
= 23 individually matched healthy controls, eye-tracking was used to assess attention to food and non-food stimuli during a free exploration paradigm and a visual search task. In the free exploration paradigm, groups did not differ in their initial fixation position. While both groups fixated non-food stimuli significantly longer than food stimuli, the BED group allocated significantly more attention towards food than controls. In the visual search task, groups did not differ in detection times. However, a significant detection bias for food was found in full-syndrome BED, but not in controls. An increased initial attention towards food was related to greater BED symptomatology and lower body mass index (BMI) only in full-syndrome BED, while a greater maintained attention to food was associated with lower BMI in controls. The results suggest food-biased visual attentional processing in adults with BED. Further studies should clarify the implications of attentional processes for the etiology and maintenance of BED.
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