Think Yourself Slim? Assessing the Satiation Efficacy of Imagined Eating

Tjark Andersen, Derek V. Byrne, Qian Janice Wang

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Ubiquitous exposure to visual food content has been implicated in the development of obesity with both individual and societal costs. The development and increasing adoption of Extended Reality (XR) experiences, which deliver an unprecedented immersion in digital content, would seem to carry the risk of further exacerbating the consequences of visual food exposure on real-world eating behavior. However, some studies have also identified potentially health-promoting effects of exposure to visual food stimuli. One example is repeated imagined consumption, which has been demonstrated to decrease subsequent food consumption. This work contains the first comparison between imagined eating and actual eating, to investigate how the simulated activity fares against its real counterpart in terms of inducing satiation. Three-hundred participants took part in an experiment at a local food festival. The participants were randomized between three experimental conditions: imagined eating, actual eating, and control. Each condition consisted of thirty trials. Before and after the experimental manipulation, the participants recorded their eating desires and enjoyment of a piece of chocolate candy. The resulting data showed generally no difference between the imagined eating and control conditions, which stands in conflict with the prior literature. In contrast, the differences between imagined and actual eating were significant. These results may be explained by differences in the experimental tasks’ dose–response relationships, as well as environmental-contextual disturbances. Overall, the findings do not corroborate the efficacy of imagined eating within a real-life context.

Original languageEnglish
Article number36
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023


  • food intake
  • grounded cognition
  • mental imagery
  • priming
  • sensory-specific satiety


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