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Dietary Self-Control Is Related to the Speed With Which Attributes of Healthfulness and Tastiness Are Processed

Sullivan, Nicolette and Hutcherson, Cendri and Harris, Alison and Rangel, Antonio (2015) Dietary Self-Control Is Related to the Speed With Which Attributes of Healthfulness and Tastiness Are Processed. Psychological Science, 26 (2). pp. 122-134. ISSN 0956-7976. doi:10.1177/0956797614559543.

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We propose that self-control failures, and variation across individuals in self-control abilities, are partly due to differences in the speed with which the decision-making circuitry processes basic attributes, such as tastiness, versus more abstract attributes, such as healthfulness. We tested these hypotheses by combining a dietary-choice task with a novel form of mouse tracking that allowed us to pinpoint when different attributes were being integrated into the choice process with temporal resolution at the millisecond level. We found that, on average, tastiness was processed about 195 ms earlier than healthfulness during the choice process. We also found that 13% to 39% of observed individual differences in self-control ability could be explained by differences in the relative speed with which tastiness and healthfulness were processed.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription Material
Hutcherson, Cendri0000-0002-4441-4809
Harris, Alison0000-0002-0559-2821
Additional Information:Copyright © 2014 The Author(s). Received November 19, 2013. Accepted September 27, 2014. Published online before print December 16, 2014. Financial support for this study was provided by the National Science Foundation (NSF; AR3.SELFCNTRL-1-NSF.ARR1) to A. Rangel, the NSF Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship program to N. Sullivan, the National Institute on Aging (R21-AG038866-01) to N. Sullivan and A. Rangel, and the Lipper Foundation. The authors declared that they had no conflicts of interest with respect to their authorship or the publication of this article. Additional supporting information can be found at Open Practices: All data and materials have been made publicly available via Open Science Framework and can be accessed at The complete Open Practices Disclosure for this article can be found at This article has received badges for Open Data and Open Materials. More information about the Open Practices badges can be found at and
Funding AgencyGrant Number
NSF Integrative Graduate Education and Research TraineeshipUNSPECIFIED
National Institute on AgingR21-AG038866-01
Lipper FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:decision making, self-control, food, delay of gratification, individual differences, open data, open materials
Issue or Number:2
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20141216-130831514
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Official Citation:Nicolette Sullivan, Cendri Hutcherson, Alison Harris, and Antonio Rangel Dietary Self-Control Is Related to the Speed With Which Attributes of Healthfulness and Tastiness Are Processed Psychological Science February 2015 26: 122-134, first published on December 16, 2014 doi:10.1177/0956797614559543
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:52878
Deposited By: George Porter
Deposited On:16 Dec 2014 21:35
Last Modified:10 Nov 2021 19:44

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