gms | German Medical Science

4. Wissenschaftlicher Kongress der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Essstörungen e. V. (DGESS)

Deutsche Gesellschaft für Essstörungen e. V.

20.03. - 22.03.2014, Leipzig

Mental imagery and food intake behavior – illustrated by a gummy bear taste-test

Meeting Abstract

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Deutsche Gesellschaft für Essstörungen e.V. (DGESS). 4. Wissenschaftlicher Kongress der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Essstörungen. Leipzig, 20.-22.03.2014. Düsseldorf: German Medical Science GMS Publishing House; 2014. Doc14dgess077

doi: 10.3205/14dgess077, urn:nbn:de:0183-14dgess0777

Published: March 17, 2014

© 2014 Missbach et al.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( You are free: to Share – to copy, distribute and transmit the work, provided the original author and source are credited.



Background: Neural top-down signalling can influence decision-making processes in various ways, ultimately in food intake behaviour these signalling pathways are pivotal to understand modern eating behaviours. Metabolic satiety is not the only determinant for food intake and research solely in this field is in a somewhat cul-de-sac situation. While introspective signalling like hunger, appetite and fullness are valuable components of how much and what people eat, several other mechanisms shape food intake behaviours likewise. In fact, memory mechanisms are relevant contributors which have yet to be disentangled. Mental imagery is a form of memory manipulation that can be induced at will or through external triggers. In craving research, obtrusive mental images were shown to enhance craving phases while in cognitive behavioural therapy mental imagery is used as intervention method. In this research article, the question is raised if thinking about food consumption affects subsequent food intake - this is investigated on a theoretical and experimental framework.

Material/Methods: A camouflaged experimental design was administered to make participants think of conducting a regular taste-test with gummy bears while the amount of actual eaten gummy bears was assessed among 101 participants. Four groups were formed visualising either gummy bear intake with 18 and 36 repetitions or a control task with distinct repetitions. All participants were told to eat ad libitum during the taste-test. Additionally, visual analogue scale scores were measured before and after the experiment.

Results: Participants performing gummy bear visualisation ate significantly less compared to those in control groups. No differences in the postprandial decline of subjective hunger and increase of fullness scores between both groups could be observed. 89.5 % of the participants reasoned that thinking about food have an appetite-increasing effect although an inverse effect on subsequent gummy bear consumption could be observed.

Conclusion: This reduction in consumed gummy bears opposes participants reasoning and depicts a relevant role for mental imagery in food intake and opens up questions twofold: i) what determines short-term eating behaviour, how does this finding fit into craving research and ii) what does the finding imply for research in mindfulness in food intake.