Goal priming and eating behavior: enhancing self-regulation by environmental cues

Papies, E. K. and Hamstra, P. (2010) Goal priming and eating behavior: enhancing self-regulation by environmental cues. Health Psychology, 29(4), pp. 384-388. (doi:10.1037/a0019877) (PMID:20658825)

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Objective: Several lines of research have shown that the confrontation with attractive food can trigger overeating, especially in restrained eaters. This effect may be driven by a hedonic orientation toward food which temporarily overrules the goal of dieting in the regulation of behavior. The present study was designed to provide an experimental demonstration of this effect in a naturalistic setting, and to show that reactivating the goal of dieting by a subtle prime in the environment can help restrained eaters to regulate their eating behavior in tempting situations. Design: In a local store where the smell of grilled chicken was present, we observed the number of free meat snacks customers sampled from a tray after they had been primed with the dieting goal or not. Main Outcome Measures: Number of snacks consumed. Results: Consistent with hypotheses, restrained eaters ate more than unrestrained eaters in the control condition. However, they reduced their eating behavior when primed with dieting, whereas this manipulation did not affect unrestrained eaters. Conclusion: This study shows that unobtrusively priming the goal of dieting can enhance self-regulation in tempting eating situations. These results are discussed in the context of recent advances in our understanding of nonconscious behavior regulation and their applications to health behavior.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Papies, Dr Esther
Authors: Papies, E. K., and Hamstra, P.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology
Journal Name:Health Psychology
Publisher:American Psychological Association
ISSN (Online):1930-7810

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