Perceived control, drive for thinness, and food consumption: anorexic tendencies as displaced reactance.
Although loss of perceived control has been implicated in the development of eating disorders, previous research has not directly tested the relationship between perceived control and food consumption. This study investigated the hypothesis that individuals with anorexic tendencies react to low perceived control by restricting food intake as a means of regaining a sense of control. Forty female undergraduates who scored either low or high on the Drive for Thinness Scale (Garner & Olmsted, 1984) were led to believe they would be participating in two separate studies. Perceived control was experimentally manipulated such that half of the subjects experienced low control and half experienced high control over a social situation. Under the guise of a second experiment, subjects tasted breakfast cereals and completed measures relevant to eating and body image. Results showed that subjects who were high in drive for thinness (DT) who experienced low control ate less sweetened cereal and planned to eat less at dinner than high DT subjects who experienced high control. Low DT subjects were unaffected by the control manipulation. The results are discussed in terms of displaced reactance.
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