Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Are We What We Eat? Differences in Foods Preferences and Cognitive Regulation Ability between Lean and Overweight Individuals

Read the working paper
INSEAD Working Paper 2013/118/MKT

The goal of this study was twofold: to shed light on differences between lean and overweight individuals (1) in how much they value healthy and unhealthy foods when hungry and when satiated at time of choice and (2) their abilities to regulate their subjective values using cognitive regulation. The distinction between the valuation and the regulation processes is important for understanding deficits in dietary decision-making because they were shown to have distinct neuropsychological signatures. We applied a novel design to study dietary decision-making that combines methods from behavioral economics of choice with methods from the psychology of emotion regulation. In more detail, in our study, hungry and satiated lean and overweight individuals made real, incentive compatible food purchasing decisions, either in a natural control condition, or under explicit cognitive regulation instructions. We found that lean and overweight individuals do not differ in their cognitive regulation abilities but in their subjective valuation processes: they assigned significantly higher values to unhealthy foods when hungry than lean individuals. No such difference was found for healthy foods and when satiated. These first findings have important implications for clinical and public policy interventions to fight obesity.