Is orthorexia a security motivated eating behaviour? An examination through cognitive bias and cardiac reactivity to food
Mascioli, Brittany A.
Master of Arts
DisciplinePsychology : Clinical
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Orthorexia is a rigid style of eating that aims to prevent illness that is characterized by a preference for natural foods was investigated as a biologically driven trait with evolutionary roots in a precautionary system of threat avoidance. Research has shown that a precautionary state of this nature is responsive to subtle indicators of potential threat and is detectable through cardiac monitoring. Cardiac monitoring was used to infer activation of this precautionary system in response to experimentally manipulated, food-related threat. In addition to this physiological investigation of orthorexia, cognitive and behavioural aspects were also evaluated. One hundred university students were exposed to natural and nonnatural food stimuli before ranking the stimuli in order of preference. They participated in a taste test in which food preferences were of interest. They completed an implicit association test assessing the relative attitudes toward natural and nonnatural food. Finally, they completed a simulated grocery shopping task assessing food preferences and behavioural intentions. A notable result was the predictive ability of orthorexia concerning the total volume of food consumed during the taste test. Conclusions were unable to be drawn with respect to precautionary system activation due to the failure of the threat manipulation. Performance on a novel task of orthorexia-related behavioural intention was significantly predicted by orthorexic tendency. It was also demonstrated that this relationship is contingent upon a third variable, BMI. Further, it was demonstrated that the predictive relationship between orthorexic tendency and performance on this behavioural task is moderated by food preference, operationally defined in terms of both (a) the rank-ordering of the food stimuli; and (b) the relative volume of natural and nonnatural food consumed during the taste test. The obtained results can be understood in the context of the theory of planned behaviour.