The Downstream Consequences of Hedonic Priming
Background: Hedonic priming can lead to increased food intake. We propose that when unconsciously triggered indulgence violates a person’s dieting standards, it may lead to negative affect and a tendency to confabulate (to make up a plausible, but erroneous reason for the indulgent behaviour). Methods: A study with a 2 (Dieting Standard: high vs. low) x 2 (Condition: Neutral vs. Hedonic Prime) between subjects design was conducted. Dieting standards and negative affect were assessed in questionnaires. Condition was experimentally manipulated in a lexical decision task. After the lexical decision task, a taste test was administered. An excuse for indulgence was then subtly provided. Then, negative affect and the tendency to use the excuse was assessed. Findings: Results were indicative of moderated mediation: dieters, but not non-dieters, who indulged as a result of the prime, experienced increased negative affect which caused them to misattribute their behaviour using the provided excuse. Discussion: These findings suggest that hedonic priming has relevant down-stream psychological consequences that extend beyond the primed behaviour itself and that may affect future behaviour.