Imagined eating – An investigation of priming and sensory-specific satiety

While obesity remains a pressing issue, the wider population continues to be exposed to more digital food content than ever before. Much research has demonstrated the priming effect of visual food content, i.e., exposure to food cues increasing appetite and food intake. In contrast, some recent research points out that repeated imagined consumption can facilitate satiate and decrease food intake. Such findings have been suggested as potential remedies to excessive food cue exposure. However, the practically limitless variety of digital food content available today may undermine satiation attempts. The present work aims to replicate and extend prior findings by introducing a within-subjects baseline comparison, disentangling general and (sensory-) specific eating desires, as well as considering the moderating influence of visual and flavour stimulus variety. Three online studies (n = 1149 total) manipulated food colour and flavour variety and reproducibly revealed a non-linear dose-response pattern of imagined eating: 3 repetitions primed, while 30 repetitions satiated. Priming appeared to be specific to the taste of the exposed stimulus, and satiation, contrary to prior literature, appeared to be more general. Neither colour nor flavour variety reliably moderated any of the responses. Therefore, the results suggest that a more pronounced variety may be required to alter imagery-induced satiation