Don't mind if I do: Disinhibited eating under cognitive load

Andrew Ward, Traci Mann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

297 Scopus citations


Past research has shown that strong emotional or motivational states can cause normally restrained eaters to overeat. In this article it is argued that simple cognitive load can also disinhibit eating by restrained eaters. Two studies examined this disinhibition effect. In Study 1, restrained and unrestrained eaters were given the opportunity to consume high-calorie food while performing either a high cognitive-load or low cognitive-load task. Restrained eaters consumed more food when under high cognitive load than when under low cognitive load; unrestrained eaters showed the opposite pattern. Study 2 replicated the disinhibition effect and ruled out stress, diminished awareness of food consumption, and ironic rebound as probable mediators. Results suggest that cognitive load may disinhibit consumption by preventing restrained eaters from monitoring the dietary consequences of their eating behavior. Implications for theories of self-regulation are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)753-763
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2000


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