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Appetite. 2010 Feb;54(1):134-42. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2009.09.019. Epub 2009 Oct 6.

Negative mood increases selective attention to food cues and subjective appetite.

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School of Psychology, University of Southampton, Highfield, Southampton SO171BJ, UK.


Following negative reinforcement and affect-regulation models of dysfunctional appetitive motivation, this study examined the effect of negative mood on objective and subjective cognitive indices of motivation for food; i.e., attentional bias for food cues and self-reported hunger/urge to eat, respectively. The study extended previous research on the effect of mood on food motivation by using (i) an experimental mood manipulation, (ii) an established index of attentional bias from the visual-probe task and (iii) pictorial food cues, which have greater ecological validity than word stimuli. Young female adults (n=80) were randomly allocated to a neutral or negative mood induction procedure. Attentional biases were assessed at two cue exposure durations (500 and 2000ms). Results showed that negative mood increased both attentional bias for food cues and subjective appetite. Attentional bias and subjective appetite were positively inter-correlated, suggesting a common mechanism, i.e. activation of the food-reward system. Attentional bias was also associated with trait eating style, such as external and restrained eating. Thus, current mood and trait eating style each influenced motivation for food (as reflected by subjective appetite and attentional bias). Findings relate to models of cognitive mechanisms underlying normal and dysfunctional appetitive motivation and eating behaviour.

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