Thought for food: imagined consumption reduces actual consumption

Science. 2010 Dec 10;330(6010):1530-3. doi: 10.1126/science.1195701.


The consumption of a food typically leads to a decrease in its subsequent intake through habituation--a decrease in one's responsiveness to the food and motivation to obtain it. We demonstrated that habituation to a food item can occur even when its consumption is merely imagined. Five experiments showed that people who repeatedly imagined eating a food (such as cheese) many times subsequently consumed less of the imagined food than did people who repeatedly imagined eating that food fewer times, imagined eating a different food (such as candy), or did not imagine eating a food. They did so because they desired to eat it less, not because they considered it less palatable. These results suggest that mental representation alone can engender habituation to a stimulus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Appetite
  • Candy
  • Cheese
  • Eating*
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Female
  • Food Preferences
  • Habituation, Psychophysiologic*
  • Humans
  • Imagination*
  • Male
  • Motivation
  • Reinforcement, Psychology
  • Young Adult