Training response inhibition to reduce food consumption
Response inhibition refers to our ability to stop or interrupt impulsive actions. This cognitive process is essential for goal-directed behaviour, and deficits in inhibitory control have been associated with various impulse control disorders including substance use and obesity. However, recent research has demonstrated the potential of response inhibition training as a therapeutic tool for reducing impulsive behaviours. Theoretical models argue that training inhibition towards tempting stimuli may prime general self-control or cause the devaluation of inhibited stimuli. Here, I investigated the effectiveness of a single session of food-related inhibition training on food consumption in restrained eaters. Furthermore, I examined the role of different training protocols, stimulus-specific associations and underlying cognitive mechanisms. Participants received either inhibition or control training using a modified version of either the stop-signal or go/no-go task. During training the associations between stop and go responses were manipulated for particular foods. The consumption of and attitudes towards trained and untrained foods were then measured. Results for food consumption showed a greater difference in intake between inhibition and control groups on the go/no-go task compared to the stop-signal task. There was also evidence to show that the effect generalised to a novel unhealthy food following go/no-go training. However, the inclusion of an additional control group, who did not make any responses during training, provided evidence to suggest that differences in intake were the result of increased consumption in the ‘control’ group rather than decreased consumption in the inhibition group. Furthermore, I found limited evidence to suggest an effect of inhibition training on either implicit or explicit attitudes towards food. These results cast doubt on the effects of inhibition training on behaviour and demonstrate that more appropriate control tasks and dependent measures are required in future research to fully explore its potential.
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