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Science. 2010 Dec 10;330(6010):1530-3. doi: 10.1126/science.1195701.

Thought for food: imagined consumption reduces actual consumption.

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  • 1Department of Social and Decision Sciences, Porter Hall 208, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA, USA.


The consumption of a food typically leads to a decrease in its subsequent intake through habituation--a decrease in one's responsiveness to the food and motivation to obtain it. We demonstrated that habituation to a food item can occur even when its consumption is merely imagined. Five experiments showed that people who repeatedly imagined eating a food (such as cheese) many times subsequently consumed less of the imagined food than did people who repeatedly imagined eating that food fewer times, imagined eating a different food (such as candy), or did not imagine eating a food. They did so because they desired to eat it less, not because they considered it less palatable. These results suggest that mental representation alone can engender habituation to a stimulus.

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