Forbidden Fruit: Does Thinking About A Prohibited Food Lead To Its Consumption?

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International Journal Of Eating Disorders


Objective: The phenomenon of overeating the very foods that one is trying to resist is potentially consistent with both an ironic process account of overeating and a reactance account of the desire for “forbidden fruit.” These two models are tested. Method: Participants in two studies were prohibited or not prohibited from eating a food, or they were encouraged to “choose” to avoid it. Food consumption, thoughts, and desire were assessed before and after the food was forbidden. Results: Consistent with an ironic process account, participants' thoughts about the food increased, regardless of whether they were required to or chose to avoid it. Consistent with a reactance account, participants' desire for the food increased if they were required to avoid it, but not if they chose to avoid it. Participants did not, however, ultimately overeat the forbidden food. Discussion: Neither increased thoughts nor enhanced desire for a food necessarily leads to overindulgence. © 2001 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Int J Eat Disord 29: 319–327, 2001.