Impact of simulated ostracism on overweight and normal-weight youths' motivation to eat and food intake

Appetite. 2011 Feb;56(1):39-45. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2010.11.140. Epub 2010 Nov 19.


There is growing evidence that the experience of being ostracized can impair individuals' abilities to self-regulate, which in turn, leads to negative health behaviors, such as increased unhealthy eating. Research has focused on adults, but deficits in eating regulation in response to ostracism may be particularly detrimental for overweight or obese youth. This study examines the effects of a brief episode of ostracism on the motivation to eat and food intake of overweight and normal-weight young adolescents (M age=13.6 years). A computerized ball-tossing game (Cyberball) was used to induce ostracism or inclusion. Following the inclusion/ostracism manipulation, all participants completed an operant computer task to earn points exchangeable for portions of food or for time socializing with an unfamiliar peer. Participants' responses for food and their subsequent energy intake were recorded. As hypothesized, ostracized overweight participants responded more for food and had a greater energy intake than overweight participants in the inclusion/control condition; whereas this was not the case for normal-weight participants. These results are important as studies indicate that overweight and obese youth may be at risk of social isolation and peer difficulties. Social adversity, if left unchanged, may increase the difficulty of promoting long-term changes in overweight youths' health behaviors.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Computers
  • Energy Intake*
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology*
  • Female
  • Food
  • Humans
  • Hyperphagia / etiology
  • Hyperphagia / psychology*
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Motivation*
  • Obesity / psychology*
  • Peer Group
  • Reference Values
  • Reward
  • Satiety Response
  • Social Behavior
  • Social Control, Informal
  • Social Environment
  • Social Isolation*
  • Stress, Psychological*