Disentangling the relative influence of competing motivational response inclinations toward high-fat foods at implicit and explicit processing levels

Melanie Newton

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Abstract

[Truncated abstract] One aim of the present research program was to investigate motivational response inclinations toward high-caloric food at implicit and explicit processing levels with unipolar measures to account for ambivalence. A second aim was to examine the extent of the influence of these implicit and explicit processes on unhealthy eating behaviors, and specifically investigate why people reporting avoid motivational inclinations continue to indulge in high-fat foods. The aim of Study 1 was to examine discordance between implicit and explicit attitudes toward high-fat food in groups that differed in preference for high-fat food. Using a bipolar version of the Implicit Association Test (IAT), a group difference was found in implicit attitudes toward high-fat food with a trend toward concordance. The aims of Study 2 were to examine if concordance between implicit and explicit processes would be greater if one accounted for motivational ambivalence within and between implicit and explicit processing levels, and to test the influence of these processes on food choice behavior. Using a unipolar version of the IAT, a pattern of concordance was found between implicit and explicit inclinations in most participants, except for those reporting weak avoid and strong approach inclinations. Further, implicit avoid and explicit avoid inclinations were found to predict food choice behavior in a context that made body and weight concerns salient. A parallel study (Study 3) was conducted with a high-caloric food that is viewed very ambivalently by society (i.e., chocolate) to determine if societal ambivalence is reflected in implicit associations, and to test the influence of implicit and explicit processes on food choice behavior. In contrast to Study 2, results indicated that all groups were implicitly ambivalent toward chocolate. Further, implicit approach and explicit avoid inclinations were found to antagonistically predict behavior suggesting that the proximal benefits of chocolate indulgence tend to outweigh the distal consequences. ... Results showed that when the unhealthy consequences of high-fat food consumption were primed, implicit avoid motivational inclinations toward high-fat food could be differentially activated and influence choice of certain high-fat foods. In conclusion, this research program found evidence for eating-related ambivalence within and between implicit and explicit processing levels which underscores the importance of utilizing unipolar measures in research investigating motivational response inclinations toward food and other substances. Further, implicit and explicit processes were found to influence high-fat food choice behavior in an antagonistic pattern with implicit approach inclinations conflicting with explicit avoid inclinations when health and weight concerns were not salient, providing support for the additive predictive pattern of food choice. A key theoretical implication of this research program is that the integration of the dual process models (e.g., Strack & Deutsch, 2004) with the ambivalence model of substance craving (e.g., Breiner, Stritzke, & Lang, 1999) can advance the understanding of competing motivational response inclinations toward high-fat foods at the implicit and explicit levels.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2009

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