Date of Award

7-17-2015

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

David J. LaPorte, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

John A. Mills, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Susan T. Zimny, Ph.D.

Abstract

The Parasympathetic Activation Hypothesis (PAH; LaPorte, 1986) for arousal-induced eating proposes that, at modest levels of emotional arousal, eating attenuates sympathetic nervous system activity and activates the parasympathetic nervous system to maintain physiological homeostasis. Eating does not occur at very low or high levels of arousal, thus forming an inverted U-shape function between arousal and eating. Eating activates the parasympathetic nervous system in all people, but people who become highly disinhibited when eating are more susceptible to eating as a way to cope with arousing stimuli. This study investigated the impact of three levels of arousal (i.e., low, moderate, and high) on food consumption. Restrained and disinhibited eating was assessed through a pre-screen measure, the Three Factor Eating Questionnaire-R18. Participants were randomly assigned to one of the conditions during which they were administered anagram tasks on the computer that were created to induce the designated emotional arousal. Mood rating scales were completed at three different time points to assess for change in emotional arousal and document the impact of each arousal condition. Food was presented after the completion of a portion of the anagram tasks. Data were analyzed using a series of MANOVAs and bivariate correlations. Overall, results suggest that the arousal manipulation was effective. Although subjects in the moderate arousal condition ate more than those in the other two conditions as predicted, results did not reach statistical significance (p = .20). A one-way MANOVA examining the relations among restrained and disinhibited eating (IV) and chips and donut consumption (DVs) did not show that eating differed significantly between the low and high restrained and disinhibited groups. Overall, findings are interpreted as providing partial support for the hypothesis that at moderate levels of arousal eating is more likely to occur.

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