Preferring habitual behavior following stress: Is the proof of the pudding in the eating?

T. Smeets, Cwem Quaedflieg

Research output: Contribution to journalMeeting AbstractOther research output


Our psychophysiological stress responses generally serve adaptive purposes such as promoting the use of simple habits over complex goal-directed behavior. Nevertheless, such a preference for habits under stress may, in vulnerable individuals, constitute a risk factor for psychopathology. For example, stress often precedes emotional eating and binge eating episodes, and is reported by people with a substance addiction as a primary reason for relapsing.

Here we report on the development of a new paradigm that aims to distinguish goal-directed from habitual behavior utilizing actual eating during reward learning and as outcome devaluation procedure. Study 1 experimentally tests three versions of the paradigm (n = 20 per task version); Study 2 examines whether exposure to an acute stressor results in a preference for habitual behavior relative to a non-stress control group (n = 20 per group), and whether this is linked to glucocorticoid and adrenergic stress responses.

Results and conclusions:
Results from both studies and their implications for an empirically supported method of measuring goal-directed versus habitual behavior in future stress studies will be discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-47
Issue numberSuppl.
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes


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