The role of implicit wanting in relation to explicit liking and wanting for food: implications for appetite control

Appetite. 2008 Jan;50(1):120-7. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2007.06.007. Epub 2007 Jun 28.


Eating is an action open to awareness by the individual; however, it cannot be claimed that processes that control the expression of eating habits are necessarily explicit. This distinction between implicit and explicit processes may enhance understanding of the expression of food reward (particularly the concepts of liking and wanting [Berridge, K. C., & Robinson, T. E. (2003). Parsing reward. Trends in Neurosciences, 26, 507-513] and its importance for human appetite control [Finlayson, G. S., King, N. A., & Blundell, J. E. (2007b). Liking vs. wanting food: Importance for human appetite control and weight regulation. Neuroscience and Biobehavioural Reviews, in press]. The present study investigated the effect of meal-induced satiation on implicit and explicit processes of liking (L) and wanting (W) by developing a computer-based procedure to measure L and W in hungry and satiated states. Explicit measures were derived from analogue ratings whilst an implicit W measure was derived from reaction time in a forced-choice procedure, which also identified food preferences. Seventy subjects (21.8+/-0.9 years, BMI: 22.2+/-0.5 kg/m2) completed the procedure before and immediately following consumption of a savoury test meal. Satiation caused explicit ratings of L and W to decrease in all food categories (p<0.01); but with a more marked decrease for savoury foods compared with sweet foods (p<0.01). Implicit W was increased for sweet categories (p<0.01), but not for savoury. Implicit and explicit measures of L and W independently correlated with preference for sweet foods. This study provides support that implicit and explicit processes of food reward can be simultaneously measured and dissociated using a test meal. Adjustments in hunger were linked to changes in explicit L and W in a manner consistent with sensory specific satiety, while a relationship between hunger and implicit W was absent. We suggest that implicit W is not systematically downregulated by the physiological consequences of food consumption in the same way as hunger and therefore may be largely independent of homoeostatic processes influencing intake.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Appetite Regulation*
  • Eating / psychology*
  • Energy Intake
  • Female
  • Food Preferences / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged