The value of indirect measures for assessing food preferences in abnormal eating

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Indirect measures have been used for the assessment of food preferences. These measures are indirect in the sense that the researcher does not ask a participant directly for his food preference, but derives his preference from a behavior. Typically, the affective priming paradigm and the implicit association test have been used. The relevant processes in these paradigms are relatively automatic. One of the advantages of these paradigms is that responses are less likely to be influenced by socially desirable response tendencies and do not rely on the participant’s introspection. This paper provides an overview of research about relatively automatic associations with food in general and specifically for anorexia nervosa patients, dieters, and obese people. Multiple studies suggest that these paradigms can uncover food likes and dislikes. In most studies, no differences in food preferences were found between obese and lean people, or between restrained and unrestrained eaters. Possibly there simply are no group differences in automatic food associations. Alternatively, the employed indirect measures are not sensitive enough to detect truly existent differences. Interestingly, it was found that anorexia nervosa patients displayed a reduced sensitivity to the palatability of foods. Another interesting finding is that the presence of an immediate food related context influenced the automatic food associations. For now, the use of indirect measures in explaining differences between obese and lean people, and restrained and unrestrained eaters, does not seem a very viable approach. It might be for a clinical disorder such as anorexia nervosa.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)180-186
JournalJournal für Verbraucherschutz und Lebensmittelsicherheit-Journal of Consumer Protection and Food Safety
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2006

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