Viewing Food Images Generates Arousal In High Eating Restraint Individuals: Evidence From Self-Reports And Skin Conductance

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Poster Session

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Individuals high in eating restraint (i.e., chronic dieters) feel ambivalent (i.e., positive and negative at the same time) about both healthy and unhealthy food images (Norris et al., 2019). As ambivalence is considered an arousing state, the current study built on past research by investigating whether healthy and/or unhealthy food images also elicit higher self-reported and physiological arousal (using skin conductance reactivity; SCR). Replicating our earlier findings, high-restraint individuals reported ambivalence to-ward both healthy and unhealthy food images but not nonfood images; whereas low-restraint individuals reported low and equivalent levels of ambivalence toward all three image types. Furthermore, unhealthy food images were rated as more arousing than healthy food images, which were rated as more arousing than nonfood images; and high-restraint individuals reported higher arousal than did low-restraint individuals. Most importantly, SCR was higher for high-restraint individuals than low-restraint individu-als when viewing healthy and unhealthy food images, but not when viewing nonfood images. Taken together, our results indicate that individuals in general report higher arousal to unhealthy versus healthy food images, consistent with societal pressures to maintain a healthy diet. However, high-restraint individuals (i.e., chronic dieters) also exhibited increased SCR to food images regardless of health value, suggestive of a disordered physiological response to food stimuli. Implications for treating individuals with eating disorders are discussed.


Arousal, Dieting, Skin Conductance


Fifty-Ninth Annual Meeting of the Society for Psychophysiological Research

Conference Dates

September 25-29, 2019

Conference Location

Washington, DC

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