The Effects of Auditory and Olfactory Cues on Visual Attention Toward Food Images Under Acute Stress
Date of Graduation
Master of Science in Food Science (MS)
Second Committee Member
Edward E. Gbur
Psychological stress, acute stress, eye-tracker, visual attention, music therapy, aromatherapy, high calorie food
Psychological stress has been shown to increase preference for high calorie foods containing high levels of sugar and fat. Since excessive intake of high calorie foods may increase potential risk of obesity and other relevant health issues, relieving psychological stress may help in maintaining a balanced diet and good health status. Although a variety of strategies for relieving psychological stress has been suggested, little attention has been paid to regarding whether such strategies can result in balanced diets. Since music therapy and aromatherapy have proven popular approaches to relieving psychological stress, this thesis aimed at determining whether listening to music (Chapter 3) or smelling pleasant odors (Chapter 4) might decrease acute psychological stress, thereby decreasing visual attention toward and desire to consume high calorie foods. In Study 1, participants, after taking an intellectual quotient (IQ) test (acute stressor), were exposed to five minutes of one of three auditory conditions: (1) no music, (2) a classical musical piece (Air on the G string), and (3) a self-selected musical piece. Participants experiencing the no-music condition were given a break from music listening. Both positive and negative emotions were measured at three stages: before the IQ test (Pre-Stress), immediately after the IQ test (Post-Stress), and following the treatment (music or break) (Treatment). Using an eye tracker at both the Pre-Stress and the Treatment stages, participants’ visual attention toward high-calorie food images was measured, along with their desire toward eating high calorie foods shown in the images. The results showed that, under all three auditory conditions, while negative emotions were significantly increased at the Post-Stress stage, they were significantly decreased with no difference found between the Pre-Stress and Treatment stages. The three auditory conditions exhibited no significant differences with respect to visual attention toward high-calorie food images in terms of entry time, fixation count, and fixation time. However, as participants more intensively felt negative emotions, especially “distressed” and “nervous”, they looked at the high-calorie food images more quickly. In Study 2, participant positive and negative emotions, visual attention to high-calorie food images, and liking and desire to eat directed toward the high-calorie food images were measured before and after the IQ test under one of the three olfactory conditions: (1) no scent, (2) lavender scent, and (3) menthol scent. Negative emotions increased after the IQ test under all three olfactory conditions. With respect to visual attention, participants under the lavender scent condition looked at the high-calorie food images longer than those under the no-scent condition. In addition, as participants more intensively felt a “distressed” negative emotion, they looked at the high-calorie food images more quickly. Participants in the lavender scent condition exhibited less desire to eat the high calorie foods shown in the images than those in the no-scent or menthol-scent conditions. In conclusion, smelling a pleasant scent, especially lavender, can relieve psychological stress-induced visual attention toward high-calorie food images. While listening to musical pieces produced no significant differences with respect to reducing the stress-induced visual attention toward high-calorie food images from just taking a break without listening to music, further study should be conducted to determine how to optimize effective music treatment for stress reduction. The findings of this thesis provide better understanding of how to use either scent or music to maximize relief of psychological stress-related visual attention to high calorie foods.
Moltaji, R. (2020). The Effects of Auditory and Olfactory Cues on Visual Attention Toward Food Images Under Acute Stress. Graduate Theses and Dissertations Retrieved from https://scholarworks.uark.edu/etd/3624