To Eat or Not To Eat: Neurocognitive Effects on Restrained Eating

Stephanie Serna, Heather Todd, Heather Hill


Previous studies on pathological eating patterns have typically assessed the cognitive consequences of dieting, yet fundamental questions about the cognitive effects on restrained eating behavior are not fully known. The current study compared the neurocognitive functions of inhibition, self-control, and emotional processing (i.e., emotional identification of valence; emotional arousal) between 38 undergraduate students who engaged in restrained eating patterns and 53 undergraduate students with non-restrained eating patterns. All participants completed the following test battery: Revised Restraint Eating Scale, Self-Control Scale, and Williams’ Inhibition Test. Emotional processing was assessed using 48 images (pleasant, neutral, and unpleasant) selected from the International Affective Picture System and rated using the Self Assessment Manikin Scale. Results revealed a significant difference between restrained eaters versus non-restrained eaters for self-control, t(91) = 3.24, p < .05. Specifically, subjects in the restrained eating group demonstrated more self-control compared to their non-restrained eating counterparts. However, group differences did not achieve statistical significance for inhibition, emotion identification of valence, and emotional arousal. Findings from this study suggest that the neurocognitive function of self-control may serve as an important determinant of restrained eating behavior.


Restrained Eating, Self-Control, Emotional Processing

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