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J Behav Med. 2014 Aug;37(4):587-94. doi: 10.1007/s10865-013-9528-3. Epub 2013 Aug 13.

Executive control resources and snack food consumption in the presence of restraining versus facilitating cues.

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Faculty of Applied Health Sciences, University of Waterloo, BMH 3028, 200 University Avenue West, Waterloo, ON, N2L 3G1, Canada,


Prior studies have documented a negative relationship between strength of executive control resources (ECRs) and frequency of snack food consumption. However, little is known about what effect environmental cues (restraining versus facilitating) have on the engagement of such control resources. We presented 88 healthy adults with standardized tests of ECRs followed by a bogus taste test for three appetitive snack foods. Participants were randomly assigned to receive instructions to eat the bare minimum to make their ratings ("restraint condition"), eat as much as they like ("facilitation condition") or no special instructions. We surreptitiously measured the weight of food consumed during the taste test. Findings revealed a main effect of treatment condition, such that those in the restraint condition ate significantly less than those in either of the other conditions; however, this main effect was qualified by an ECR by treatment condition interaction. Specifically, those in the facilitation condition showed a strong negative association between ECR strength and amount of food consumed, whereas those in the restraint and control conditions did not. Findings suggest that the effect of ECR strength on consumption of snack food varies substantially by the characteristics of contextual cues.

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