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Scholars Day: April 11, 2012

Executive Function in External, Emotional, and Restrained Eaters

Since the 1980s, obesity and overeating are considered to be a major health problem within the United States. In fact, the US is currently facing what some experts call an obesity epidemic (Graves, 2010). There are many different theories regarding the reasons that lead people to overeat. Three common theories in the eating literature are externality theory, psychosomatic theory, and restraint theory (Van Strien, Frijters, Bergers, & Defares, 1986). Externality theory focuses on external eating which involves eating in response to external food related stimuli regardless of the internal state of hunger or satiety. Psychosomatic theory focuses on emotional eating which is the tendency to overeat in response to negative emotional states such as anger, fear, and anxiety. Restraint theory focuses on restraint which is constantly restricting food intake in order to control weight gain. The current study will explore if the reasons for overeating may lie in deficient executive function, a process that is localized mainly to the frontal regions of the brain and involves processes such as cognitive control, the ability to sustain or flexibly redirect attention, the inhibition of inappropriate behavioral responses, initiation and execution of strategies, and the ability to flexibly switch among strategies (Robbins, 1998). Preliminary findings will be discussed.

Please note that presentation times are approximate. If you are interested in attending sessions with multiple presentations, please be in the room at the start of the session.
Presenter: Hilary Weaver (Graduate Student)
Topic: Psychology
Location: 104 Edwards
Time: 9:20 am Session I