Autobiographical memory specificity and restrained eating: examining the influence of priming with images of healthy and unhealthy foods

Deborah J. Wallis, Jessica Moss, Bethany Varnam, Barbara Dritschel, Nathan Ridout

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Background Dietary restraint has been linked to deficits in the ability to recall detailed memories of personally experienced events (referred to as autobiographical memory specificity). As priming with healthy foods increases the salience of restraint it would be expected to lead to greater deficits in memory specificity. Objective To determine if priming word cues with images of healthy or unhealthy foods would influence the specificity of memory retrieval, and if deficits in memory specificity would be more evident in those reporting higher levels of dietary restraint, or currently dieting. Methods Sixty female undergraduates self-reported if they were currently dieting and completed measures of mood, restraint, and disinhibition, and a modified version of the autobiographical memory task. Participants were presented with positive and negative words (unrelated to eating concerns) and asked to retrieve a specific memory in response to each cue. A food image was shown prior to each word cue; half of the participants were primed with images of healthy foods and half with images of unhealthy foods. Results As expected, participants primed with healthy foods retrieved fewer specific memories than did those primed with unhealthy foods. However, neither restraint nor current dieting behaviour was associated with memory specificity. Conclusions Differences in memory specificity between the priming conditions cannot be explained in terms of increased salience of restraint. However, it is plausible that unhealthy images led to an increase in positive affect, which in turn improved memory specificity.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number53
    JournalEating and Weight Disorders
    Issue number53
    Publication statusPublished (VoR) - 21 Jun 2023


    • Dieting
    • Restraint
    • Memory-specificity
    • Positive affect
    • Priming


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