Professor Kelly Haws, Vanderbilt University, will discuss her research.
We study how stress affects food indulgence. Five studies find that the effect of stress on indulgent food choices and consumption depends on people’s level of perceived social support. Results show that stressful situations lead individuals with lower perceived support to indulge more. In contrast, food consumption among those with higher perceived support is comparatively less influenced by the effects of stress. In addition to documenting this novel effect, we demonstrate that situational self-control is a driving factor underlying this effect. People with lower perceived social support indulge more because stressful situations momentarily reduce their self-control. Together, the present work advances our understanding of the ways in which stress influences food-related behaviors and opens multiple avenues for future research.