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Effects of distraction on the development of satiety

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 March 2007

Jeffrey M. Brunstrom*
Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Bristol, 12a Priory Road, Bristol BS8 1TU, UK
Gemma L. Mitchell
Department of Human Sciences, Loughborough University, Loughborough LE11 3TU, UK
*Corresponding author: Dr Jeff Brunstrom, fax +44 (0)117 928 8588, email
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Two experiments explored the hypothesis that distraction causes a reduced sensitivity to the physiological and sensory cues that signal when to terminate a meal. In Experiment 1, eighty-eight females ate five ‘Jaffa Cakes’ either while distracted by a computer game or while sitting in silence. Analysis of the difference in rated hunger, fullness and desire to eat (pre- to post-intake) revealed that distracted participants experienced smaller changes in their desire to eat and fullness than did non-distracted participants. Experiment 2 assessed whether changes in ratings are attenuated because sensory-specific satiety (or a related process) fails to develop. Using a similar procedure, eighty-four females provided desire to eat, pleasantness and intensity ratings for Jaffa Cakes and for two ‘uneaten’ foods, both before and at three time-points after consuming five Jaffa Cakes. Non-distracted participants reported a reduction in their desire to eat the eaten food relative to the uneaten food (food-specific satiety), whereas distracted participants maintained a desire to eat all foods. Moreover, this difference between distracted and non-distracted participants was evident 5 and 10 min after the eating episode had terminated. The present findings invite speculation that distraction attenuates the development of sensory-specific satiety, and that this effect persists (at least for a brief period) after the distractor has terminated. More generally, this kind of phenomenon warrants further scrutiny because it holds the potential to contribute towards overeating, either by prolonging an eating episode or by reducing the interval between meals.

Research Article
Copyright © The Nutrition Society 2006


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