Send to

Choose Destination
Appetite. 2014 Aug;79:139-48. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2014.04.005. Epub 2014 Apr 15.

Working for food you don't desire. Cues interfere with goal-directed food-seeking.

Author information

Addiction Development and Psychopathology (ADAPT) lab, Department of Developmental Psychology, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands; Cognitive Science Center Amsterdam, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Cognitive Psychology Unit, Leiden University, Leiden, The Netherlands; Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition, Leiden, The Netherlands.
Cognitive Science Center Amsterdam, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands; Department of Clinical Psychology, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Electronic address:


Why do we indulge in food-seeking and eating behaviors at times when we are already fully sated? In the present study we investigated the hypothesis that food-associated cues in the environment can interfere with goal-directed action by eliciting food-seeking that is independent of the current desirability of the outcome. To this end, we used a computerized task in which participants learned to press keys for chocolate and popcorn rewards. Subsequently, we investigated whether satiation on one of these rewards would bias choice toward the other, still desirable, food reward. We found that satiation did indeed selectively reduce responding on the associated key in the absence of food-associated cues. In contrast, in a Pavlovian-instrumental transfer (PIT) test, satiation failed to reduce cue-elicited food-seeking: in line with our hypothesis, cues that had previously been paired with chocolate and popcorn led to increased responding for the signaled food reward, independent of satiation. Furthermore, we show that food-associated cues will not only bias choice toward the signaled food (outcome-specific transfer), but also enhance the vigor of responding generally (general transfer). These findings point to a mechanism that may underlie the powerful control that cues in our obesogenic environment exert over our behavior.


Associative learning; Environmental cues; Food-seeking; Obesity; Pavlovian-to-instrumental transfer

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center