Affect asymmetry and comfort food consumption

Physiol Behav. 2005 Nov 15;86(4):559-67. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2005.08.023. Epub 2005 Oct 4.


It is proposed that the emotional triggers of comfort food consumption can reliably be predicted by factors tied to affect asymmetry whereby negative affects dominate one's experience, decision making and behaviors in some instances while positive emotions prevail in others. Specifically, we relate three of these factors (age, gender, and culture) to differences in the emotional triggers of comfort food consumption and we further explore the possibility that the type of food eaten during comfort-seeking episodes can also be tied to affect asymmetry. Two hundred and seventy-seven participants completed a web-based survey conducted to assess the emotional antecedents and consequences of comfort food consumption. Consistent with expectations, results indicate that men's comfort food consumption was motivated by positive emotions whereas women's consumption was triggered by negative affects. Consumption of comfort foods alleviated women's negative emotions but also produced guilt. Positive affect was a particularly powerful trigger of comfort food consumption for older participants and for participants with French cultural background. Younger participants and participants with English background reported more intense negative emotions prior to consuming comfort foods. Foods high in sugar and fat content were more efficient in alleviating negative affects whereas low-calorie foods were more efficient in increasing positive emotions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Affect*
  • Culture
  • Eating / psychology*
  • Emotions
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology*
  • Female
  • Food Preferences / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged