Theses Doctoral

Tools to Assist Restrained Eaters: A Query Theory and Regulatory Focus Theory Approach

Majd, Christine Sudabeh

For chronic dieters, modern food environments make it very difficult to always behave inline with health goals. Approximately 45 million Americans report never fully being off a diet because they fail to reach their weight loss goals. These individuals are colloquially known as chronic dieters but in the food behavior and literature, these people are known as Restrained Eaters. Restrained Eaters are known for the vacillation between food restraint and disinhibition. Past research has demonstrated that one way to keep Restrained Eaters from reach disinhibition is to prevent or weaken their involuntary physical and cognitive responses to external food cues. In a series of three lab studies, this dissertation tests two novel approaches to influencing the behavior of Restrained Eaters when faced with a hedonic food item. The focus of Study 1 is on using Query Theory to test whether there is an effect of endowment on decision and whether thoughts predict decision. We found a significant effect of endowment on the decision of Restrained and Unrestrained Eaters. Study 2 also uses Query Theory but reverse the natural order in which participants generated thoughts and whether that had an effect on decision. In Study 2, we found changing the natural order of thoughts can reverse the effect of endowment. Studies 3 and 4 reanalyze the data from Studies 1 and 2 using Regulatory Focus Theory. In this reanalysis, we found thoughts coded using regulatory focus also predicted behavior. We use the results from this reanalysis to justify Study 5, which is a test of regulatory focus inductions on decision. We found no significant effect of regulatory focus inductions on the decision of Restrained or Unrestrained Eaters. This research aims to develop interventions that will help Restrained Eaters make decisions that are not overshadowed by external cues or instant gratification, giving them a better chance to reach a sought out goal.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Weber, Elke U.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
November 10, 2017