The relationship between tendency to attend to detail, sensory sensitivity, and affective response to food cues: a registered report

Jennifer Wagner, John Grigor*, Ahmed Abdullah, Peter Cannon, Jonathan Wilkin, Paul Robertson, Andrea Szymkowiak

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
112 Downloads (Pure)


Understanding the underlying drivers of food choice remains a challenge and has highlighted the need for measures that capture data over and above that offered by self-reporting tools. Consequently, a growing body of research has set out to interpret facial responses to food cues to offer a greater insight into the emotional responses that may drive food acceptance. However, interpreting facial responses is challenging, as there are numerous factors that may influence affective response to foods, including expectation, context, and individual differences. Existing findings suggest there is a link between autistic traits and sensory sensitivities; research highlights further links between sensory sensitivities and eating behaviour, and autistic traits and eating behaviour, with a body of research focusing on the autistic trait attention to detail (ATD). As such, the current study aimed to examine rapid facial activity in response to foods cues while capturing these individual differences present in the general population. This study found no evidence to suggest facial responses to food pictures were linked with attention to detail or hyper-sensitivity. The findings did support a general link between self-reported pleasantness ratings of viewed foods and activity of facial muscles. Post-hoc analyses suggested scoring on the social skills sub-scale of the Autism Quotient (AQ) was associated with levator activity while viewing pictures low in pleasantness. This study offers a greater understanding of variations, at the individual level, which are associated with affective response to foods, and may help to inform the development of tools that set out to predict food acceptance. [Abstract copyright: Copyright © 2021 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.]
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)50-60
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Psychophysiology
Early online date7 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2021


  • Food
  • Facial electromyography
  • Sensory sensitivity


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