The selective impact of chocolate craving on visuospatial working memory

Appetite. 2010 Aug;55(1):44-8. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2010.03.010. Epub 2010 Mar 20.


The present study aimed to extend previous research into cognitive impairments as a consequence of food craving. In particular, the study examined the impact of chocolate craving on the three components of working memory: the phonological loop, the visuospatial sketchpad, and the central executive, assessed by the digit span, Corsi blocks, and the double span tasks, respectively. A sample of 96 female undergraduate students was randomly assigned to a craving or control condition. Participants in the craving condition abstained from eating chocolate for 24h prior to testing, and performed the cognitive tasks in the presence of chocolate, a manipulation that successfully elicited chocolate cravings. As predicted on the basis of the visual imagery nature of food cravings, participants in the craving condition performed more poorly on the Corsi blocks task than control participants, but the groups did not differ on the digit span or double span measures. These results indicate that chocolate cravings selectively disrupt performance on visuospatial tasks. According to the working memory model, this occurs because food cravings compete for limited visuospatial working memory resources. These findings have practical implications in that visuospatial memory plays an important role in many everyday behaviours.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cacao*
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Eating / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Motivation / physiology*
  • Spatial Behavior / physiology
  • Visual Perception / physiology