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01-04-2014 | Uitgave 2/2014

Journal of Behavioral Medicine 2/2014

Changing how I feel about the food: experimentally manipulated affective associations with fruits change fruit choice behaviors

Journal of Behavioral Medicine > Uitgave 2/2014
Erin M. Walsh, Marc T. Kiviniemi


Fewer than half of Americans meet current recommendations for fruit and vegetable intake. The behavioral affective associations model posits that feelings and emotions associated with a behavior are a proximal influence on decision making. Cross-sectional evidence supports the model and suggests that affective associations predict fruit and vegetable consumption. The purpose of this study was to test whether a causal relation exists between affective associations about fruits and future fruit consumption behavior, as measured by a snack selection task. Following a baseline assessment of cognitive and affective variables, participants’ (N = 161) affective associations about fruits were experimentally manipulated with an implicit priming paradigm. Images of fruits were repeatedly paired with positive, negative, or neutral affective stimuli. The key outcome measure was a behavioral choice task in which participants chose between fruit and a granola bar. Participants in the positive prime condition were three times more likely than those in the negative condition to select a piece of fruit over the granola bar alternative in the snack selection task. They were also twice as likely as those in the neutral condition to select fruit. There were no changes in self-reported affective associations or cognitive beliefs. These findings provide further evidence of the implicit and direct influence of affective associations on behavior, suggesting the need to both incorporate the role of affect in health decision making models, as well as the potential utility of intervention strategies targeting affective associations with health-related behaviors.

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