Warnings intended to dissuade women from overindulging might have contradictory effect, study finds

According to lead author Prof Kevin Durkin, this surprising outcome is known as ‘reactance’ – when a warning has a contrary effect of releasing desire for a forbidden product. Credit: Robyn Lee

Australian study has found warnings intended to dissuade women from over-indulging in chocolate can actually prompt increased consumption.

Published in , the work from researchers at the University of Western Australia and University of Strathclyde found low restraint eaters (non-dieters) showed a strong impulse to eat chocolate when presented with negative messaging.

This includes warnings that it could lead to or phrases like 'a moment on the lips, a lifetime on the '.

According to lead author Prof Kevin Durkin, this surprising outcome is known as 'reactance' – when a warning has a contrary effect of releasing desire for a forbidden product.

"Reactance could be more marked among the low restraint participants because they are generally less preoccupied with regulating their and thus find external attempts to intervene in freely determined behaviour more jarring," he says.

Ironically, negative messaging had no effect on 'restrained eaters', people who regularly dieted.

However, dieters did react strongly to the visual imagery in ads.

When offered chocolate in conjunction with ads featuring , dieters showed increased desire to eat chocolate, greater feelings of wanting to avoid , higher consumption and ultimately more .

"Among participants with high restraint, those exposed to the thin model consumed significantly more chocolate, while model size didn't have any real impact on those with low restraint," Prof Durkin says.

Prof Durkin says this may be because are more susceptible to a 'thin fantasy brought about by viewing ideal body images'.

A 2002 study by Mills et al found after looking at very thin models, restrained eaters reported not only that they desired to be thinner, but perceived themselves to be thinner.

"These women enjoy a self-enhancement or inspirational effect from the image. Because this results in feeling that they are closer to reaching their ideal form, they experience a reduction in the pressure to maintain their regimens," Dr Durkin says.

"From a chocolate advertiser's perspective, exploitation of young women's vulnerability to the thin ideal has some attractions."

The study involved 80 female participants between the ages of 17 and 26, categorised into low or high restraint and scored on the Orientation to Chocolate Questionnaire, developed by Prof Werner Stritzke and colleagues at UWA, and a measure of chocolate consumption.

Prof Durkin and Prof Stritzke say they undertook the study as part of a broader interest in the complex relationship between body issues, health risks associated with the highly calorific food and chocolate's status among women.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Nice but naughty -- our addiction to chocolate

Sep 11, 2007

Chocolate is the most widely and frequently craved food. People readily admit to being ‘addicted to chocolate’ or willingly label themselves as ‘chocoholics’. A popular explanation for this is that chocolate contains ...

Regular chocolate eaters are thinner: study

Mar 26, 2012

Katherine Hepburn famously said of her slim physique: "What you see before you is the result of a lifetime of chocolate." New evidence suggests she may have been right.

Eating chocolate cuts risk of heart disease

Aug 31, 2011

(Medical Xpress) -- The researchers compiled a systematic review of seven studies using data from 114,000 patients and found that people who consumed the most chocolate had a 37 per cent lower risk of developing ...

Recommended for you

Study reveals state of crisis in Canadian foster care system

Oct 24, 2014

A new study of foster care in Canada led by a researcher at Western University reveals a shrinking number of foster care providers are available across the country to care for a growing number of children with increasingly ...

Researchers prove the benefits of persimmons for diet

Oct 24, 2014

Alba Mir and Ana Domingo, researchers from the Department of Analytical Chemistry of the University of Valencia, under the supervision of professors Miguel de la Guardia and Maria Luisa Cervera, from the same department, ...

Hand blenders used for cooking can emit persistent chemicals

Oct 24, 2014

Eight out of twelve tested models of hand blenders are leaking chlorinated paraffins when used according to the suppliers' instructions. This is revealed in a report from Stockholm University where researchers analyzed a ...

User comments