It was hypothesised that the hunger-enhancing effects of exposure to the sight and smell of palatable food would disinhibit eating in restrained eaters (self-reported dieters). In two experiments exposure to palatable food stimuli led to increases in motivational (hunger) ratings and salivation, and was followed by overeating in restrained subjects compared with the control condition (no food during exposure) and a condition in which nonpreferred food was presented during the exposure phase. The food intake of unrestrained subjects, on the other hand, was reduced following exposure to palatable food in the first experiment. This shows that breakdown of dietary restraint can be induced by food stimuli even when the food does not constitute a preload. Mere exposure to the sight and smell of palatable food is sufficient to precipitate loss of dieting motivation. The effects of exposure on hunger and salivation were, in general, unrelated to food intake or degree of dietary restraint. Therefore, changes in hunger do not appear to directly mediate increased food intake in dieters. Instead, it is tentatively suggested that anxiety resulting from exposure to liked food may play a role both in disinhibiting eating and suppressing salivation in restrained subjects.