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The effect of visualisation and mindfulness-based decentering on chocolate craving

Wilson, E., Senior, V. & Tapper, K. ORCID: 0000-0001-9097-6311 (2021). The effect of visualisation and mindfulness-based decentering on chocolate craving. Appetite, 164, article number 105278. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2021.105278


According to the elaborated intrusion (EI) theory of desire, loading visual working memory should help prevent and reduce cravings because cravings occur when intrusive thoughts are elaborated upon in working memory, often as vivid mental images. Mindfulness-based decentering strategies may also help prevent and reduce cravings since they may divert attention away from craving-related thoughts and mental imagery. To compare the effects of visualisation versus decentering on cravings, participants (N = 108) were randomly assigned to one of three conditions: (a) decentering, (b) visualisation, (c) mind-wandering control. Participants in each condition received two audio exercises: (1) a 2-min exercise, preceding a craving induction but after initial deprivation and cue exposure, (2) a 4-min exercise, following a craving induction. The audios instructed participants to look at a plate of chocolate that was in front of them whilst either (a) decentering from their thoughts and feelings, (b) engaging in visualisation or (c) letting their mind wander. Participants were asked to rate the strength of their cravings at four time points (Time 1, baseline; Time 2, after the 2-min audio; Time 3, post-craving induction; Time 4, post-4 minute audio). Frequency of craving-related thoughts was also measured at Time 4. Compared to the control condition, results showed a significant reduction in strength of cravings for the decentering condition after both the 2-min audio and the 4-min audio. Decentering was superior to visualisation only after the 2-min audio. Participants in both the visualisation and decentering conditions also had significantly lower frequencies of craving-related thoughts compared to control participants. The findings support EI theory and suggest that mindfulness-based decentering strategies may be useful for both the prevention and reduction of cravings. Pre-registration:

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This article has been published in its final form in Appetite (Elsevier). DOI: © 2021. This manuscript version is made available under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 license
Publisher Keywords: Mindfulness; Mindful eating; Decentering; Craving; Visualisation; Elaborated intrusion theory
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
SWORD Depositor:
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Text - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

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