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Appetite. 2013 Oct;69:46-53. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2013.05.011. Epub 2013 May 23.

Dissection of appetitive conditioning. Does impulsivity play a role?

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  • 1Maastricht University, Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience, P.O. Box 616, 6200 MD Maastricht, The Netherlands.



It is generally assumed that cue-reactivity results from appetitive pavlovian learning. This is the reason for applying cue exposure with response prevention interventions in the treatment of substance and eating disorders. However, not all appetitive conditioned responses are equally sensitive to extinction. Additionally, impulsivity traits appear to moderate cue-reactivity. Nevertheless, there has been little research on the role of impulsivity traits in the learning of different appetitive response systems.


The purpose of the present study was (i) to replicate Van Gucht et al.'s (2010) findings, in particular, the acquisition and the differential extinction of appetitive learned responses and ii) to investigate the role of impulsivity traits in appetitive learning.


Participants (n=50) took part in a single laboratory session. Impulsivity traits (reward sensitivity, response inhibition, sensation seeking) were measured at the beginning of the session. A paradigm similar to Van Gucht et al.'s (2010) was used for the acquisition and extinction of subjective conditioned responses for milk chocolate (craving, expectancy, and liking).


The acquisition of appetitive responses was successful. Unlike craving and liking, the extinction of expectancy was fully successful. Impulsivity traits played no role in the acquisition and extinction of appetitive conditioning.


The results support the differential sensitivity of different appetitive response systems to extinction. The lack of findings for the role of impulsivity traits in appetitive learning shows that the question of how impulsivity affects appetitive behaviour still remains open. Theoretical and methodological issues and clinical implications of the findings are discussed.

Copyright © 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Craving; Cue reactivity; Expectancy; Impulsivity; Liking; Pavlovian appetitive learning

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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