The Effects of Stress and Images of Food
on Candy Consumption in Women
Experimenters: Sandra Bishop, Greta
Greenleaf, Amy Kokot,
Ali Scheier, Nicolle Szewczyk, Cindi Woerdeman
The present study attempted to evaluate the
effects of both the combined and individual effects of stress and images
of food on candy consumption in women.
Many studies have attempted to identify how
individuals cope with stressful situations, so that people can better recognize
the potentially detrimental consequences of stress, such as overeating
and depression. Research has specifically looked at the relationship between
stress and food consumption.
Food-related stimuli are prevalent in society:
on billboards, in radio and television advertisements and on the cover
of gourmet magazines. Studies have specifically examined the effects of
food images in advertisements and food-related stimuli on food consumption
and the desire to eat.
We were searching for the potential impact of
stress and exposure to food-related stimuli on food consumption in women,
as such would alert women to this pattern, perhaps motivating them to monitor
and control their stress, in addition to increasing their awareness of
the subtle food-related stimuli in the environment.
A main effect was anticipated for
the stressful condition: individuals in the stressful condition were expected
to consume more candy than those placed in the relaxed condition. A main
effect was also anticipated in the images of food condition: participants
in the condition with photographs of food were expected to consume more
candy than those in the condition without pictures of food. A significant
interaction was anticipated to occur between stress and images of food;
participants placed in a stressful environment with pictures of food were
expected to eat the most candy, when compared with those only in a stressful
environment, those in a relaxed environment with pictures of food and those
in a relaxed environment only, respectively.
Stressful: timer, stressful questionnaire.
Relaxed: flowers, tablecloth, rug, comfortable
chair, relaxed questionnaire.
Images of Food:
Poster of food images [chocolate, pizza, cake]
present in room.
Poster of food images absent.
Amount of Candy consumed.
92 Mount Holyoke students
All conditions: Bowl of candy (mini Hershey’s bars, mini Snickers, Sweet
Tarts, Smarties): sign in the bowl read "Thank you for your participation.
Help yourself!" (No reference to the candy is made throughout the experiment.)
Condition 1A: Poster with pictures of appetizing foods, stressful cues-
stressful questionnaire with unsolvable crossword puzzle, ticking timer
Condition 1B: Food poster, relaxed cues- relaxed questionnaire with easy
crossword puzzle, tablecloth, vase of flowers, comfortable chair, rug
Condition 2A: Stressful cues, no poster
Condition 2B: Relaxed cues, no poster
Participants were randomly assigned to one of the four conditions before
They were asked to sign the consent form once they arrived.
The participants each entered into separate rooms (set up with one of the
four conditions) with the experimenter and the directions were read.
Directions for groups 1A and 2A: "The timer will be set for fifteen minutes.
You should remain in the room until the timer goes off even if you finish
early. Once the timer goes off, turn over the questionnaire and I (the
experimenter) will come in the room to collect your questionnaire." The
experimenter then set the timer for fifteen minutes and left the room.
Directions for groups 1B and 2B: "The questionnaire is really easy and
it shouldn’t take you more than fifteen minutes to fill out. When you have
completed the questionnaire, turn it over on the table and come see me."
The experimenter then left the room.
Once the participants had left the rooms, they were given a debriefing
The experimenter entered each room and recorded, on the questionnaire,
the number of pieces of candy each person took, the number of the participant
and the participant’s condition.
An independent groups ANOVA was used to determine if there was a significant
difference between the stressful and relaxed conditions and the presence
or absence of food images on the amount of candy consumed by each group.
There was no main effect for the type of environment on candy consumption.
Individuals in the stressful environment (M = 2.20) did not consume significantly
different amounts of candy when compared with those in the relaxed environment
(M = 1.87), F(1, 88) = .63, MSE = 3.91, p >.05. There was no main effect
for food images on candy consumption. Individuals exposed to food images
(M = 2.22) did not consume significantly differing amounts of candy as
those not exposed to food images (M = 1.85), F(1, 88) = .80, MSE = 3.91,
p>.05. There was no interaction between the type of environment and the
presence or absence of food images, F(1, 88) = 3.41, MSE = 3.91, p >.05
Mean amount of candy consumption in women as a function of stress level
and exposure to images of food.
We hypothesized that subjects placed in the
stressful condition with exposure to images of food would be more likely
to take available candy than those subjects only in the stressful condition,
those in the relaxed condition with exposure to images of food, and those
only in the relaxed condition, respectively.
Our hypothesis was not supported.
There were no significant differences between
the levels of our independent variables.
Our data did not support any previous research.
In order to support our hypothesis, we could
have created a stronger manipulation of stress and relaxation in each condition.
We could also have offered a more diverse variety of snack foods, so that
all subjects would have found the selection appealing. Furthermore, had
we been able to keep the time of day and the amount of food consumed prior
to subjects' participation constant, we could have eliminated these potential
confounds and obtained significant results.