Environmental stress effects on appetite: Changing desire for high- And low-energy foods depends on the nature of the perceived threat

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Articlepeer-review

    4 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    It is well-documented that harsh environmental conditions influence appetite and food choice. However, the experience of environmental harshness is complex and shaped by several underlying dimensions, notably threats to one's social support, economic prospects, and physical safety. Here, we examined the differential effects of these three dimensions of environmental harshness on desire for specific food items. We first showed 564 participants images of 30 food items. Next, they rated how much they desired each item. The participants were then randomly assigned to a condition where they read one of six scenario stories that described someone's current living conditions. Each scenario story emphasized one of the three dimensions (social support, economic prospects, physical safety), with two levels (safe, harsh). Following this, the participants once again rated how desirable each food item was. The results showed that exposure to cues of low social support and high physical threat reduce the desire to eat, whereas cues of economic harshness had little effect. Further analysis revealed a significant interaction between energy level of different foods and perceived threat to physical safety. These findings are important in helping to understand how current environmental conditions influence changes in appetite and desire for different kinds of food items.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-13
    Number of pages13
    JournalEvolution, Mind and Behaviour
    Volume18
    Issue number1
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Nov. 2020

    Keywords

    • Appetite
    • Environmental harshness
    • Evolution
    • Food scarcity
    • Life history
    • Stress

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