Pleasure or Health? The Role of Mental Simulation in Desire and Food Choices

Naomí C. Muñoz-Vilches*, Hans C.M. Van Trijp, Betina Piqueras-Fiszman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Many times, desire possesses us and impedes us from making healthier food choices. From a grounded cognition perspective, we investigated the role of two types of mental simulation (process and outcome) in desire and food choice to understand the processes that modulate them and find strategies that encourage healthier food choices. In addition to these explicit measures, we used two implicit methods to measure approach-avoidance tendencies and visual attention. Our results showed that imagining the consumption of vice and virtue foods increased desire for the product imagined and seemed to favor the choice of a vice food. However, at an implicit level, the motivation to approach and avoid food products was neutral. Imagining the post-consumption of a vice food decreased desire for the imagined food and although it tempted people at an implicit level, it made people more prone to choose a virtue food. When a vice food was imagined, attentional bias increased for all types of food regardless of the simulation. When a virtue food was imagined, there was no effect on choice, motivation nor attentional bias. In conclusion, simply imagining certain foods is a potential solution for promoting healthier and thoughtful choices.
Original languageEnglish
Article number9081099
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 12 Aug 2020


  • Desire
  • Grounded cognition
  • Healthy choice
  • Imagery
  • Implicit motivation
  • Mental simulation
  • Visual attention


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