Distractibility as a predictor of success in a behavioral treatment for obesity

Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title

Results of behavioral approaches to obesity have generally supported their efficacy, but have indicated that they are the best programs for some obese and the worst programs for others. Studies comparing obese and non-obese subjects have demonstrated that the obese are more stimulus-bound than the non-obese (Schachter, 1971) and that this difference generalizes beyond eating behavior to tasks such as proofreading and reaction time (Rodin, 1973). The present study attempted to partially replicate Rodin's (1973) work and use individual distractibility as a predictor of success in a behavioral treatment program concerned with stimulus control. As measures of distraction, proofreading accuracies under two conditions of distraction were obtained for 34 obese female clients between the ages of 18 and 40, and 21 non-obese female subjects of similar age and socio-economic status. Contrary to Rodin's findings, the obese, when compared to the non-obese, were more distracted in the no distraction condition and less distracted in the distraction condition, however, these results were not significant. Proofreading accuracies did not correlate significantly with a subject's percentage overweight. Several measures failed to significantly predict performance in a ten-week treatment program. Age, life situation, and sex of the subjects were discussed as the most likely sampling differences in the failure to replicate. The lack of predictive success was attributed to this failure and the possibility that Rodin failed to find a true measure of stimulus boundedness. More basic research comparing male and female, obese and non-obese students on tasks with food-cues and tasks—without food-cues was recommended