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Eating and inflicting pain out of boredom

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Abstract

In the present study it was investigated whether boredom promotes eating and if so, whether this effect likely reflects an increased drive for rewarding stimulation (positive reinforcement) or more plainly the drive to escape boredom (negative reinforcement). In the latter case, the valence of the stimulation should not matter and people might even be willing to look for negative stimulation, for instance to hurt oneself, just to escape boredom. In two parallel experiments, it was tested whether induced boredom promotes the consumption of chocolate (Experiment 1) and whether participants likewise are more inclined to self-administer electrocutaneous stimuli (Experiment 2). In both experiments, a total of 30 participants attended two separate sessions watching a documentary for 1 h (neutral condition) and a monotonous repetition of a single clip from the same documentary for 1 h (boring condition), in balanced order. During Experiment 1, participants had free access to M&Ms and during Experiment 2 participants could freely self-administer brief electrical shocks. It was found that participants ate more M&Ms when bored but also that they more readily self-administered electrical shocks when bored. It is concluded that eating when bored is not driven by an increased desire for satisfying incentive stimulation, but mainly by the drive to escape monotony. (C) 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)52-57
JournalAppetite
Volume85
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015