Social exclusion and visual memory bias towards high-calorie food: the role of interoceptive accuracy

  • G. Zamariola
  • O. Luminet
  • O. Corneille


Background: Negative emotions arising from the experience of ostracism may lead individuals to implement dysfunctional emotion regulation strategies, such as seeking for comfort food. A recent study revealed a less negative impact of social exclusion on mood measures among participants scoring higher in Interoceptive Accuracy (IAcc). No prior study examined whether social exclusion also influences visual memory for food and whether IAcc may play a role in the latter relation. Methods: Participants (N = 99) performed the heartbeat perception task to measure IAcc. Afterwards, they completed the Cyberball paradigm where they were assigned to a social inclusion or exclusion condition. Then, they performed a visual memory task in which they were asked to recall pictures of briefly presented high- and low-calorie food and neutral objects. Findings: A main effect of condition was not revealed, while IAcc was found as a significant moderator of social exclusion: participants with high IAcc reported less negative mood after being excluded. Participants showed a general memory bias for high-calorie food, but the bias was decreased among individuals with high IAcc, who displayed a lower memory bias towards high-fat food. Discussion: The role of interoception in emotion regulation was confirmed, providing additional evidence supporting the view that higher IAcc is related to better self-regulation and protects against negative experiences, such as ostracism. These findings revealed that IAcc might also serve as a successful coping strategy, able to decrease the accessibility in memory of potentially ‘harmful’ stimuli, e.g., high-calorie food. Replication studies are currently ongoing.