Beyond liking: emotional and physiological responses to food stimuli

W. He

Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU

Abstract

Background and aim

Traditional liking ratings are typically seen as an important determinant in eating behavior. However, in order to better understand eating behavior, we need to first better understand (the dynamic and implicit features underlying) liking appraisal. The aim of this thesis was to investigate the effects of food stimuli varying in sensory modality (smell and taste), pleasantness and intensity, on emotional and physiological responses leading up to liking appraisal. 

Methods

Four studies, using healthy participants, were conducted as part of this thesis. In the first study, responses to pleasant versus unpleasant food odors varying in intensity were measured discretely using pleasantness ratings, intensity ratings and non-verbally reported emotions (PrEmo), as well as continuously using facial expressions and autonomic nervous system (ANS) responses. To further explore how explicit and implicit factors contribute to pleasantness appraisal, the same measures were assessed in response to food odors with a wider range of valence. Next, we focused on facial expressions and ANS responses elicited by single sips of breakfast drinks that were equally liked. In the last study, we investigated changes in pleasantness after consuming semi-liquid meals to (sensory-specific) satiety, combined with measures of facial expressions and ANS responses. 

Results

Both non-verbal reported emotions and emotional facial expressions were demonstrated to be able to discriminate between food odors differing in pleasantness and between food odors differing in intensity. In addition to discrete emotional responses, odor valence associated best with facial expressions after 1 second of odor exposure. Furthermore, facial expressions and ANS responses measured continuously were found odor-specific in different rates over time. Results of food odors with a wider range of valence showed that non-verbally reported emotions, facial expressions and ANS responses correlated with each other best in different time windows after odor presentation: facial expressions and ANS responses correlated best with the explicit emotions of the arousal dimension in the 2nd second of odor presentation, whereas later ANS responses correlated best with the explicit emotions of the valence dimension in the 4th second. For food stimuli varying in flavor (breakfast drinks), facial expressions and ANS responses showed strongest associations with liking after 1 second of tasting, as well as with intensity after 2 seconds of tasting. Lastly, we were able to demonstrate that ANS responses, as well as facial expressions of anger and disgust were associated with satiety. Further effects of sensory-specific satiety were also reflected by skin conductance, skin temperature, as well as facial expressions of sadness and anger.

Conclusions

Both non-verbal reported emotions and emotional facial expressions were demonstrated to be able to discriminate between food odors differing in pleasantness and/or intensity. Explicit and implicit emotional responses, as well as physiological patterns are related to liking appraisals involved in smelling foods. Implicit measures such as facial expressions and ANS responses can provide more multidimensional information for both food odors and tastes than explicit measures and prove to be highly dynamic over time with specific time courses. Early implicit facial and ANS responses primarily reflect emotion arousal, whereas later ANS responses reflect emotion valence, suggesting dynamic unfolding of different appraisals of food stimuli. Furthermore, ANS responses and facial expressions can reflect pleasantness, satiety, and a combination of both: sensory-specific satiety. This suggests that implicit processes play an important  role in dynamic liking appraisals with respect to eating behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Wageningen University
Supervisors/Advisors
  • de Graaf, Kees, Promotor
  • Boesveldt, Sanne, Co-promotor
  • de Wijk, Rene, Co-promotor
Award date15 Mar 2016
Place of PublicationWageningen
Publisher
Print ISBNs9789462576506
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2016

Keywords

  • stimuli
  • food
  • emotions
  • autonomic nervous system
  • odours
  • taste
  • beverages
  • physiological functions
  • man
  • human behaviour
  • expressivity

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