Date of Graduation

12-2014

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Food Science (MS)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Food Science

Advisor

Han-Seok Seo

Committee Member

Jean-Francois Meullenet

Second Committee Member

Edward Gbur

Keywords

Contexts, Eye Tracker, Food Images, Visual Attention

Abstract

Food perception is influenced not only by sensory properties of the food itself, but also by individuals- or environment-related contexts. Visual cue appears to be the most dominant factor in modulating food perception. This research aimed to determine whether individuals' visual attention towards food images can vary as a function of contextual variables such as hunger/fullness (Chapter 3), chronic stress (Chapter 4), and culture (Chapter 5). In Chapter 3 and Chapter 4, participants were asked to freely view visual slides, including four different images per slide, shown on the monitor. Using eye-tracking techniques, participants' visual attention towards food images (e.g., high- and low-calorie food images) was compared either between fasted and fed states (Chapter 3) or between high and lows level of chronic stress (Chapter 4). Chapter 3 and Chapter 4 showed that participants' visual attention towards the food images were increased when they were hungry or highly stressed compared to when they were satiated or mildly stressed. In Chapter 5, North American and Chinese participants were asked to view pictures of food menu with varying saliency level of background contexts. Chinese participants, in comparison to American participants, were more attentive to the background contexts. By contrast, American participants focused more on the food image than Chinese counterparts. However, the culture-induced visual attention to the food image disappeared when the pictures of foods which were surrounded by medium and high levels of background saliency were presented. Our findings provide empirical evidence that visual attention towards food images can be changed by contextual factors including hunger/fullness, chronic stress, and culture. Furthermore, this thesis suggests that the eye-tracking technique can be applied to measure the reducing effect of food products on individuals' hunger.

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