Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




A review of the literature reveals significant changes which have oc- cured in the role posited for dieting. Once considered a simple solution for weight loss, dieting has more recently been seen as playing a causal role in the development of eating disorders. Similarly, the characteristics and behaviors once thought to be attributable to obesity have more recently been said to be by-products of dieting-induced hunger. Several authors have pointed to the influence of cognitive factors in initiating and maintaining dieting and, conversely, in abandoning restraint in eating.

The purpose of this study was to explore the influence of dietary restraint on cognition as demonstrated by performance on a visual recognition task. It was hypothesized that visual cues for eating, in the form of food pictures, would be more salient for high dietary restrainers. Specifically, it was predicted that high dietary restrainers would (a) correctly identify food pictures they had seen previously and (b) incorrectly report recognition of food pictures they had not seen previously.

Two series of color slides of food and nonfood pictures were presented to female undergraduate psychology student volunteers. During a second series of slides, subjects marked anser sheets to indicate whether or not they recognized the pictures from the first series of slides.

Results of the study showed that restrainers and nonrestrainers alike made more correct responses to food pictures and made more correct responses on pictures which had not been shown before than on those which were repeats. The results did not support the two specific hypotheses. However, a number of other findings were consistent with results reported in the literature.