Resisting temptation of unhealthy food: interaction between temptation-elicited goal activation and self-control
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Counteractive control theory suggests that the cognitive accessibility of a goal in response to a temptation cue predicts self-regulation of behaviour consistent with that goal. The current study provided a novel test of this effect in the eating domain, exploring the moderating role of trait self-control. A sample of 124 women (18-25 years) completed a lexical decision task to assess cognitive accessibility of the weight-management goal after food temptation priming. Eating self-regulation was operationalised as unhealthy snack food intake measured in a task disguised as a taste-test. Participants completed trait self-control and temptation experience intensity measures. Cognitive accessibility predicted lower food intake, but only among high self-control participants. The relationship was mediated by temptation experience intensity: participants with high cognitive accessibility felt less tempted, and subsequently ate less food. Results suggest that changing the processes underlying the temptation experience, rather than the cognitive accessibility of a goal may more effectively enhance self-regulation among low self-control individuals.
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