Hopeful consumers choose fruit, happy consumers choose candy bars

February 20, 2012 By Lori Wilson
Hopeful consumers choose fruit, happy consumers choose candy bars
Many people fall victim to emotional eating, but it doesn't happen only when they're feeling bad, according to researchers. Credit: iStock Photos

Many people fall victim to emotional eating, but it doesn't happen only when they're feeling bad, according to researchers.

Having a good day at work, for example, can sometimes lead to a treat from the , according to Karen Winterich, assistant professor of marketing, Penn State Smeal College of Business, and Kelly Haws of Texas A&M University. At other times, lead to choosing a healthier option, such as fruit.

Previous research has shown that feeling bad can lead to bad eating choices, but Winterich and Haws show that feeling good doesn't necessarily lead to good eating choices.

The researchers looked at the complicated relationship between positive emotions and food consumption, aiming to determine when positive feelings lead to unhealthy snacking. They teased out the difference between positive feelings -- pride and happiness -- that arise from thinking about the past or present, and hope, which they describe as a more future-oriented emotion.

In four studies, Winterich and Haws found that participants focusing their positive emotion toward the future consume less unhealthy food and have lower preferences for unhealthy snacks than those whose feelings of pride or happiness are focused on the past.

In the researchers' first study, hopeful participants consumed fewer M&M candies than people who experienced happiness. In a second study, even when feeling hopeful, participants who were more focused on the past chose unhealthy snacks.

The researchers shifted the time frame of the positive emotion in the third study, questioning participants on a time when they had anticipated being rewarded for a particular achievement. The results indicate that if someone is anticipating feeling proud, they prefer fewer unhealthy snacks than someone experiencing a present sense of pride.

Finally, the authors compared future-focused positive emotions of hopefulness and anticipated pride with future-focused negative emotions of fear, and anticipated shame. They found that only the combination of positivity and a future-focused state of mind improved self-control.

Details of their study appeared in a recent issue of the Journal for Consumer Research.

"The next time you're feeling well, don't focus too much on all the good things in the past," the researchers wrote. "Instead, keep that positive glow and focus on your future, especially all the good things you imagine to come. Your waistline will thank you!"

Explore further: Can feeling too good be bad? Positive emotions in bipolar disorder

Related Stories

Can feeling too good be bad? Positive emotions in bipolar disorder

July 22, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- Positive emotions like joy and compassion are good for your mental and physical health, and help foster creativity and friendship. But people with bipolar disorder seem to have too much of a good thing. ...

Psychologists warn that therapies based on positive emotions may not work for Asians

April 25, 2011
Thinking happy thoughts, focusing on the good and downplaying the bad is believed to accelerate recovery from depression, bolster resilience during a crisis and improve overall mental health. But a new study by University ...

Happiness contributes to longer life: study

November 1, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- Don’t Worry. Be Happy. The words from this famous song may have more meaning than originally intended according to a new study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. ...

Recommended for you

Researchers pave new path toward preventing obesity

July 24, 2017
People who experience unpredictable childhoods due to issues such as divorce, crime or frequent moves face a higher risk of becoming obese as adults, according to a new study by a Florida State University researcher.

Using money to buy time linked to increased happiness

July 24, 2017
New research is challenging the age-old adage that money can't buy happiness.

Exposure to violence hinders short-term memory, cognitive control

July 24, 2017
Being exposed to and actively remembering violent episodes—even those that happened up to a decade before—hinders short-term memory and cognitive control, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National ...

Higher cognitive abilities linked to greater risk of stereotyping

July 24, 2017
People with higher cognitive abilities are more likely to learn and apply social stereotypes, finds a new study. The results, stemming from a series of experiments, show that those with higher cognitive abilities also more ...

Psychologists say our 'attachment style' applies to social networks like Facebook

July 24, 2017
A new investigation appearing this week in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin suggests a strong association between a person's attachment style—how avoidant or anxious people are in their close relationships—and ...

Neuroticism may postpone death for some

July 24, 2017
Data from a longitudinal study of over 500,000 people in the United Kingdom indicate that having higher levels of the personality trait neuroticism may reduce the risk of death for individuals who report being in fair or ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.