March Virtual Behavioural and Experimental Economics Research Seminar
Physical activity has been called a “miracle cure” for its many health benefits. However, in some rare cases, exercise can take on a harmful, addictive dimension, and become detrimental to health. Accordingly, understanding the mechanisms underpinning exercise addiction is warranted. Automatic reactions to cues related to the addictive behavior have been identified as a hallmark of addiction in other contexts such as substance use. Yet, the extent to which these automatic reactions are associated with exercise addiction remains largely unknown.
In this talk, I will present the study conducted during my master’s thesis at the Swiss Center of Affective Sciences (CISA) under the supervision of Dr. Boris Cheval. The purpose of our study was to examine the associations between exercise addiction and automatic reactions toward physical activity-related cues. Two independent experiments were conducted in physically active individuals with low-to-moderate levels of exercise addiction. Experiment 1 (N=65) used a dot-probe task with eye-tracking to examine the association between attentional bias toward physical activity and exercise addiction levels. Experiment 2 (N=125) used a manikin task and a single-category implicit association test to assess the association of approach-avoidance tendencies and implicit affective attitudes toward physical activity with exercise addiction, respectively. Results showed that exercise addiction was positively associated with behavioral indicators of attentional bias (i.e., reaction times), but not with more direct eye-tracking indicators (i.e., first-gaze localization, gaze duration) (Experiment 1). Similarly, exercise addiction was not associated with approach-avoidance tendencies or implicit affective attitudes toward physical activity (Experiment 2). These findings and their conceptual implications will be discussed.