Psychology Ph.D. Dissertations


Hedonic Hunger and Self-Control: The Impact of Palatability, Power of Food and Dietary Restraint on Self-Control Depletion

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Advisor

Robert Carels, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Susan Huss, Ph.D. (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

William O'Brien, Ph.D. (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Michael Zickar, Ph.D. (Committee Member)


Individuals utilize self-regulatory resources daily in countless circumstances. The depletion of self-regulatory resources may impair an individual’s ability to resist eating tempting (i.e., palatable) foods in a food-rich environment. Certain people may be particularly susceptible to the presence of palatable foods in their eating environment. These individuals are believed to possess a greater propensity to the experience of hedonic hunger. Hedonic, or psychological, hunger represents a condition in which individuals feel a desire to consume palatable foods, even in the absence of physiological hunger. Dietary restraint and power of food represent two individual characteristics in which greater susceptibility to hedonic hunger appears to be a central characteristic. The need to resist hedonic hunger during exposure to palatable foods may result in depletion of self-control resources and depletion in the performance of subsequent tasks involving self-control, particularly among individuals high in the power of food and/or dietary restraint. The present study examined the contributions of dietary restraint and power of food to self-control depletion following a task intended to elicit or not elicit hedonic hunger. It was hypothesized that power of food and dietary restraint would be related to greater self-control depletion following the elicitation of hedonic hunger, and that depletion would be even greater for those who were higher in both power of food and dietary restraint. Participants were 105 undergraduate students recruited from undergraduate psychology classes. Results indicated that power of food was unrelated to self-control depletion, regardless of the elicitation of hedonic hunger. Dietary restraint was found to have an unanticipated relationship with self-control depletion, with individuals higher in dietary restraint demonstrating less self-control depletion across hedonic hunger conditions. A three-way interaction between power of food, dietary restraint, and hedonic hunger emerged, but the results did not support the hypothesized outcome. Implications of the study’s findings are discussed, as well as suggested directions for future research related to power of food, dietary restraint, hedonic hunger, and self-control.