The Effects Of Operant Conditioning On Disordered Eating Essays

The Effects Of Operant Conditioning On Disordered Eating Essays

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Many efforts to address emotional eating have emphasized the importance of effective mood regulations skills to enhance one’s ability to tolerate stress or negative mood without using food to cope (Telch, Agras, & Linehan, 2001). Only within the past 20 years has research focused on applying more traditional learning processes to the development and maintenance of emotional eating. The primary difference between these perspectives, as exemplified by the Davidson model, is the de-emphasis of cognitions and motivations for eating (e.g., to escape negative mood) in the learning models, such as the classical conditioning model.
Although arguments could be made for the influence of operant conditioning on disordered eating, classical conditioning is assumed to a major component in the development of maladaptive eating behaviors (Greeno & Wing, 1994; Jansen, 1998). Empirical evidences supports classical conditioning models of eating desires. For instance, Van Gucht et al. (2008) tested the ability to condition serving trays (i.e., neutral stimuli) of different shapes and colors to elicit chocolate cravings. Conditioning consisted of three phases: acquisition, extinction, and renewal. For the acquisition phase, one tray (tray 1) was consistently paired with eating chocolate. So, in this study, tray 1 acted as a conditioned stimulus (CS+) and eating chocolate acted as the unconditioned stimulus (US). Tray 2, on the other hand, was never paired with chocolate, acting as a CS-. During each trial, participants were instructed to pay attention to the color and shape of the tray, their thoughts and feelings, as well as rate their expectancy for chocolate and their level of craving. Then, they unwrapped the piece of chocolate on the tray and sm...


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... food when presented with the CS+ and not when presented with the CS-. Additionally, by the end of the conditioning, participants in both the negative and the neutral conditions reported the same level of expectancy for food versus no food. Conditioned desire to eat was lower for the negative mood group than for the neutral group. Furthermore, there was a marginally significant increase in liking the CS+ after conditioning, and there was a significant decrease in liking the CS- after conditioning. There was no influence of mood on food intake nor on salivation. However, within the negative mood condition, those in the CS+ condition reported a higher desire to eat prior to the food than those in the CS- condition; this result was not found within the neutral mood condition. Lastly, self-reported emotional eater status was not related to conditioning in negative mood.

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