Moving towards specificity: A systematic review of cue features associated with reward and punishment in anorexia nervosa

Ann F. Haynos, Jason M. Lavender, Jillian Nelson, Scott J. Crow, Carol B. Peterson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Models of anorexia nervosa (AN) posit that symptoms are maintained through deficient reward and enhanced punishment processing. However, theoretical and empirical inconsistencies highlight the need for a more nuanced conceptualization of this literature. Our goal was to comprehensively review the research on reward and punishment responding in AN from a cue-specific lens to determine which stimuli evoke or discourage reward and punishment responses in this population, and, ultimately, what properties these rewarding and punishing cues might share. A systematic review interrogating reward and punishment responses to specific cues yielded articles (n = 92) that examined responses to disorder relevant (e.g., food) and irrelevant (e.g., money) stimuli across self-report, behavioral, and biological indices. Overall, in most studies individuals with AN exhibited aversive responses to cues signaling higher body weights, social contexts, and monetary losses, and appetitive responses to cues for weight loss behaviors and thinness. Findings were more mixed on responses to palatable food and monetary gains. Results highlight that reward and punishment responding in AN are context specific and may be affected by varied stimulus qualities (e.g., predictability, controllability, delay, effort). Increasing specificity in future research on reward and punishment mechanisms in AN will better inform development of precisely-targeted interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101872
JournalClinical Psychology Review
StatePublished - Jul 2020


  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Appetitive
  • Aversive
  • Eating disorders
  • Punishment
  • Reward

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

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