New paper by Simmank & Horstmann

Con­grat­u­la­tions to Jakob Sim­mank & Annette Horstmann, who pub­lished in Fron­tiers in Behav­ioral Neu­ro­science this Octo­ber, enti­tled: Inci­den­tal reward­ing cues influ­ence eco­nom­ic deci­sions in peo­ple with obe­si­ty.


Recent research sug­gests that obe­si­ty is linked to promi­nent alter­ations in learn­ing and deci­­sion-mak­ing. This gen­er­al dif­fer­ence may also under­lie the pref­er­ence for imme­di­ate­ly con­sum­able, high­ly palat­able but unhealthy and high-calo­rie foods. Such poor food-relat­ed inter-tem­po­ral deci­­sion-mak­ing can explain weight gain; how­ev­er, it is not yet clear whether this deficit can be gen­er­al­ized to oth­er domains of inter-tem­po­ral deci­­sion-mak­ing, for exam­ple finan­cial deci­sions. Fur­ther, lit­tle is known about the sta­bil­i­ty of deci­­sion-mak­ing behav­ior in obe­si­ty, espe­cial­ly in the pres­ence of reward­ing cues. To answer these ques­tions, obese and lean par­tic­i­pants (n = 52) com­plet­ed two ses­sions of a nov­el prim­ing par­a­digm includ­ing a com­put­er­ized mon­e­tary delay dis­count­ing task. In the first ses­sion, gen­er­al dif­fer­ences between groups in finan­cial delay dis­count­ing were mea­sured. In the sec­ond ses­sion, we test­ed the gen­er­al sta­bil­i­ty of dis­count rates. Addi­tion­al­ly, par­tic­i­pants were primed by affec­tive visu­al cues of dif­fer­ent con­tex­tu­al cat­e­gories before mak­ing finan­cial deci­sions. We found that the obese group showed stronger dis­count­ing of future mon­e­tary rewards than the lean group, but groups did not dif­fer in their gen­er­al sta­bil­i­ty between ses­sions nor in their sen­si­tiv­i­ty toward changes in reward mag­ni­tude. In the obese group, a fast decrease of sub­jec­tive val­ue over time was direct­ly relat­ed to a high­er ten­den­cy for oppor­tunis­tic eat­ing. Obese in con­trast to lean peo­ple were primed by the affec­tive cues, show­ing a sex-spe­­cif­ic pat­tern of prim­ing direc­tion. Our find­ings demon­strate that envi­ron­ments rich of cues, aim­ing at induc­ing unhealthy con­sumer deci­sions, can be high­ly detri­men­tal for obese peo­ple. It also under­scores that obe­si­ty is not mere­ly a med­ical con­di­tion but has a strong cog­ni­tive com­po­nent, mean­ing that cur­rent dietary and med­ical treat­ment strate­gies may fall too short.

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