Inhibitory self-control moderates the effect of changed implicit food evaluations on snack food consumption
MetadataShow full item record
The current study used a modified implicit association test (IAT) to change implicit evaluations of unhealthy snack food and tested its effects on subsequent consumption. Furthermore, we investigated whether these effects were moderated by inhibitory self-control. A sample of 148 women (17–25 years) motivated to manage weight through healthy eating completed an IAT intervention, and pre- and post-intervention IATs assessing implicit evaluations of unhealthy food. The intervention IAT trained participants to pair unhealthy food stimuli with either positive or negative stimuli. A task disguised as a taste-test was used to assess consumption of unhealthy snack foods. Inhibitory self-control was measured using a self-report scale. As predicted, the implicit evaluation of unhealthy food became more negative from pre- to post-training among participants in the food negative pairing condition; however, there was no corresponding change in the food positive pairing condition. The effect of the training on snack consumption was moderated by inhibitory self-control with only participants low in inhibitory self-control having lower snack intake following the food negative training. This finding is consistent with dual-process models of behaviour which predict that self-control capacity renders impulses less influential on behaviour. Furthermore, it suggests that an intervention that retrains implicit food evaluations could be effective at reducing unhealthy eating, particularly among those with low inhibitory self-control.