Date Thesis Awarded
Honors Thesis -- Access Restricted On-Campus Only
Bachelors of Science (BS)
Catherine A. Forestell
Pamela S. Hunt
According to the cognitive capacity theory of attention, individuals have only a limited availability of cognitive resources. Previous research has shown that restrained eaters (i.e., those who typically restrict their intake for weight control) expend a considerable amount of cognitive energy regulating their food intake. As a result, they tend to overeat when these cognitive resources are depleted by engaging in a cognitive task because there are fewer resources available to focus on inhibiting food intake. The purpose of the present study was to test this hypothesis to determine whether the difficulty of a task affected restrained eaters' consumption of a palatable food. We exposed restrained (n=30) and non-restrained (n=23) eaters either to a relatively easy or difficult cognitive computer task. As participants responded to the computer task with their dominant hand, they were exposed to a bowl of chocolate which was placed beside the computer within easy reach of their non-dominant hand. Results indicated that restrained eaters ate significantly less than non-restrained eaters in the heavy cognitive load task, whereas in the light cognitive load task the restrained and non-restrained groups ate similar amounts of chocolate. Thus, contrary to the findings of other studies, restrained eaters were able to continue to control their food intake when exposed to a difficult cognitive task. However, in the easy task food intake may have been disinhibited due to feelings of boredom. These results highlight the importance of future research to further assess models that attempt to explain the effects of boredom on eating behavior.
Schreiber, William Benjamin, "The Effects of Attention on Consumption in Restrained and Non-Restrained Eaters" (2010). Undergraduate Honors Theses. William & Mary. Paper 668.
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