The effects of a gamified approach avoidance training and verbal suggestions on food outcomes

Lemmy Schakel, Dieuwke S. Veldhuijzen, Henriet van Middendorp, Pieter van Dessel, Jan De Houwer, Rafael Bidarra, Andrea W.M. Evers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
18 Downloads (Pure)


There is initial support for the effectiveness of approach-avoidance trainings in altering food-related health behaviors. Furthermore, outcome expectancies induced by verbal suggestions might optimize the effectiveness of these interventions, as shown in placebo research. The present study investigated the effectiveness of a gamified approach-avoidance training on food-related outcomes and whether verbal suggestions could strengthen those effects. A total of 120 participants were randomly assigned to 1 of 4 conditions: serious gaming only, verbal suggestions only, serious gaming combined with verbal suggestions, or a gaming control condition. Virtual food preference and food choice were assessed with a food choice task, with pairs differing in healthiness or in healthiness and attractiveness. Implicit food preference was assessed with an Implicit Association Test and food intake with a bogus taste test. Participants in both serious gaming conditions made healthier food choices for pairs differing in healthiness and attractiveness and had healthier implicit food preferences compared to gaming control. No effects were found on food intake. These findings provide the first preliminary support for the effects of a gamified approach-avoidance training on virtual food choice and implicit food preference. Future studies should further elucidate these effects, also in other health domains such as physical activity.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0201309
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2018


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