Publications & Reports

Exposure to food cues moderates the indirect effect of reward sensitivity and external eating via implicit eating expectancies.

Aimee L Maxwell, Natalie J Loxton, Julie M Hennegan
School of Applied Psychology, Griffith University, Mt Gravatt Campus, Australia.


Previous research has suggested that the expectancy “eating is rewarding” is one pathway driving the relationship between trait reward sensitivity and externally-driven eating. The aim of the current study was to extend previous research by examining the conditions under which the indirect effect of reward sensitivity and external eating via this eating expectancy occurs. Using a conditional indirect effects approach we tested the moderating effect of exposure to food cues (e.g., images) relative to non-food cues on the association between reward sensitivity and external eating, via eating expectancies. Participants (N = 119, M = 18.67 years of age, SD = 2.40) were university women who completed a computerised food expectancies task (E-TASK) in which they were randomly assigned to either an appetitive food cue condition or non-food cue condition and then responded to a series of eating expectancy statements or self-description personality statements. Participants also completed self-report trait measures of reward sensitivity in addition to measures of eating expectancies (i.e., endorsement of the belief that eating is a rewarding experience). Results revealed higher reward sensitivity was associated with faster reaction times to the eating expectancies statement. This was moderated by cue-condition such that the association between reward sensitivity and faster reaction time was only found in the food cue condition. Faster endorsement of this belief (i.e., reaction time) was also associated with greater external eating. These results provide additional support for the proposal that individuals high in reward sensitivity form implicit associations with positive beliefs about eating when exposed to food cues.


  • Journal: Appetite
  • Published: 01/04/2017
  • Volume: 111
  • Pagination: 135-141