The role of context in flavour-flavour evaluative conditioning.

  • Sarah Davies

    Student thesis: Unknown


    In recent decades the role of context in food consumption behaviour has been the focus of some research. However little is known about whether context influences the way in which we learn to like foods. Most of our food likes and dislikes are acquired through experience. A number of different processes are thought to be involved. One such mechanism is flavour-flavour evaluative conditioning (EC). In flavour-flavour EC a novel flavour (Conditioned Stimuli; CS) is repeatedly paired with a flavour that already evokes an affective response (Unconditioned Stimuli; US). The outcome of these repeated pairings is a shift in liking towards the CS that is in line with the affective value of the US. There is reason to believe that certain contextual factors may influence this type of food preference learning. However few studies have investigated this. In this thesis the impact of several contextual factors on flavour-flavour EC is explored. We also explore the use of approach behaviour as an indirect measure of liking.Chapters 2 and 3 present evidence of the influence of two external contextual factors in flavour-flavour EC. In Chapter 2 the effect of information was investigated. Conditioning in unrestrained eaters was marginally enhanced when conditioning was presented in the context of positive information regarding the CS-US pairings. Results show that information may influence flavour-flavour EC, possibly through assimilation and contrast effects. In Chapter 3 the effect of physical context on flavour-flavour EC was explored. Results showed that conditioning was context specific. Conditioning effects were strongest when participants acquired conditioning and were tested in the same context compared to those who acquired conditioning in one context and moved to a second context for testing. Chapter 4 presents a methodological investigation of the efficacy of using approach behaviours as a way to indirectly measure liking for real drink stimuli. Approach behaviours were shown to differ according to drink valence with quicker approaches exhibited for pleasant drinks compared to aversive drinks. Approach behaviours were then used as an indirect measure of drink liking in Chapter 5. Chapters 5 and 6 explore two factors related to the internal context. Chapter 5 explores the role of cognitive resources in flavour-flavour EC. In two experiments conditioning was shown to be reduced under conditions of cognitive load suggesting a role for cognitive resources in flavour-flavour EC. Chapter 6 presents an exploration of the effect of mood on flavour-flavour EC. There was no effect of mood on conditioning per se, however results showed that sad participants rated CS flavours more positively than happy participants, a finding that is interpreted with reference to mood regulation. The work presented in this thesis provides evidence that many factors related to the context within which learning occurs can influence flavour-flavour EC. Flavour-flavour EC is shown to be context specific, dependent upon cognitive resources and open to influence from information and mood. These findings highlight the importance of context in food behaviour.
    Date of Award31 Dec 2013
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • The University of Manchester
    SupervisorWael El-Deredy (Supervisor)


    • Evaluative conditioning
    • Flavour-flavour learning
    • Context

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