2023-03-22Zeitschriftenartikel DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2023.1123907
The nature and persistence of the effects of posthypnotic suggestions on food preferences: The final report of an online study
The persistence of food preferences, which are crucial for diet-related decisions, is a significant obstacle to changing unhealthy eating behavior. To overcome this obstacle, the current study investigates whether posthypnotic suggestions (PHSs) can enhance food-related decisions by measuring food choices and subjective ratings. After assessing hypnotic susceptibility in Session 1, at the beginning of Session 2, a PHS was delivered aiming to increase the desirability of healthy food items (e.g., vegetables and fruit). After the termination of hypnosis, a set of two tasks was administrated twice, once when the PHS was activated and once deactivated in counterbalanced order. The task set consisted of rating 170 pictures of food items, followed by an online supermarket where participants were instructed to select enough food from the same item pool for a fictitious week of quarantine. After 1 week, Session 3 mimicked Session 2 without renewed hypnosis induction to assess the persistence of the PHS effects. The Bayesian hierarchical modeling results indicate that the PHS increased preferences and choices of healthy food items without altering the influence of preferences in choices. In contrast, for unhealthy food items, not only both preferences and choices were decreased due to the PHS, but also their relationship was modified. That is, although choices became negatively biased against unhealthy items, preferences played a more dominant role in unhealthy choices when the PHS was activated. Importantly, all effects persisted over 1 week, qualitatively and quantitatively. Our results indicate that although the PHS affected healthy choices through resolve, i.e., preferred more and chosen more, unhealthy items were probably chosen less impulsively through effortful suppression. Together, besides the translational importance of the current results for helping the obesity epidemic in modern societies, our results contribute theoretically to the understanding of hypnosis and food choices.
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