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Does Cognitive Distraction Lead to Overeating in Restrained Eaters?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 June 2009

Brigitte Boon
Utrecht University, The Netherlands
Wolfgang Stroebe
Utrecht University, The Netherlands
Henk Schut
Utrecht University, The Netherlands
Anita Jansen
Maastricht University, The Netherlands


Restrained eaters have been found to overeat after various events or so-called disinhibitors, such as eating a preload or strong emotional states. Little research has focused on why such events lead to a break of the restrained eaters' control and to overeating. The present study examines the role of cognitive distraction as a possible mechanism underlying these effects. Two experiments were conducted, both designed to test hypotheses derived from Wegner's Ironic Process Theory and focusing on the behavioural consequences of cognitive control over eating. In both experiments subjects were tested in a 2 (restrained/unrestrained) by 2 (distraction/no distraction) design. The results do not confirm the prediction flowing from the Ironic Process Theory: cognitive distraction does not lead to overeating in restrained eaters. Implications of these findings for the Boundary Model are also discussed.

Research Article
Copyright © British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies 1997

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