Emotional eating and Pavlovian learning: evidence for conditioned appetitive responding to negative emotional states

P. Bongers, A. Jansen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

Appetitive learning has been demonstrated several times using neutral cues or contexts as a predictor of food intake and it has been shown that humans easily learn cued desires for foods. It has, however, never been studied whether internal cues are also capable of appetitive conditioning. In this study, we tested whether humans can learn cued eating desires to negative moods as conditioned stimuli (CS), thereby offering a potential explanation of emotional eating (EE). Female participants were randomly presented with 10 different stimuli eliciting either negative or neutral emotional states, with one of these states paired with eating chocolate. Expectancy to eat, desire to eat, salivation, and unpleasantness of experiencing negative emotions were assessed. After conditioning, participants were brought into a negative emotional state and were asked to choose between money and chocolate. Data showed differential conditioned responding on the expectancy and desire measures, but not on salivation. Specific conditioned effects were obtained for participants with a higher BMI (body mass index) on the choice task, and for participants high on EE on the unpleasantness ratings. These findings provide the first experimental evidence for the idea that negative emotions can act as conditioned stimuli, and might suggest that classical conditioning is involved in EE.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)284-297
Number of pages14
JournalCognition & Emotion
Volume31
Issue number2
Early online date5 Nov 2015
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Keywords

  • ATTENTION BIAS
  • Appetitive conditioning
  • BULIMIA-NERVOSA
  • CHOCOLATE
  • CUE-EXPOSURE
  • FOOD CUES
  • LEAN INDIVIDUALS
  • MEAL INITIATION
  • MODEL
  • MOOD
  • OVERWEIGHT
  • cue reactivity
  • emotional eating
  • emotional states
  • mood

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