Social Cognition and Decision Sciences

Inhibitory spillover and inhibitory control of eating behavior

Project Lead: Prof. Dr. Mandy Hütter; Prof. Dr. Jennifer Svaldi

Although psychological and pharmacological interventions are associated with significant weight loss in overweight individuals, most individuals remain overweight after such interventions. One of the issues frequently addressed in this context is the omnipresence of highly palatable food. At the same time, not all individuals are equally susceptible to the high availability of tempting food and recent evidence suggests that eating-related inhibitory deficits are related to the maintenance of overweight. Recent research has also demonstrated that the execution of self-control in one domain may lead to a concurrent increase of inhibitory control in another domain. Of more clinical relevance, this subsequent increase in inhibitory control cannot be achieved exclusively by endogenous cues, but also exogenous reminders of inhibitory control.The aim of the present project is to test whether (1) ISE can occur in the domain of pathological eating behavior, (2) ISE are evident in measures of food-related response inhibition, and (3) ISE by exogenous cues facilitate weight reduction in overweight and obese individuals.These research questions will be addressed in different samples of weight in a series of experiments. We assume that (1) exertion of inhibitory control in a food-unrelated domain will decrease food intake in a taste test in overweight compared to normal weight individuals, (2) inhibitory control spills over to facets of response inhibition typically deficient in overweight/obese individuals, and (3) ISE conditioned to food stimuli will facilitate weight loss over a four-week period.

Funded by: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (2017-2022)

Team Members: Julian Vöhringer, MSc.


Vöhringer, J., Schroeder, P. A., Hütter, M., & Svaldi, J. (in press). Does inhibitory control spill over to eating behaviors? Two preregistered studies of inhibitory spillover effects on food intake and reactions to food stimuli. Appetite.

Vöhringer, J., Hütter, M., Schroeder, P. A., & Svaldi, J. (2023). Does a white bear help you eat less? The impact of the Inhibitory Spillover Effect on eating behavior. European Eating Disorders Review, 31(5), 685-695.

Vöhringer, J., Schroeder, P. A., Hütter, M., & Svaldi, J. (2023). Facilitation of simultaneous control? A meta-analysis of the inhibitory spillover effect. Psychological Review, 130(3), 770–789.