NeFCA dissertation award for Monique Alblas

Published on February 23, 2023 – On February 2nd, at the annual conference “Etmaal van de Communicatiewetenschap” (“24 Hours of Communication Science”), ACHC member Dr. Monique Alblas was awarded the NeFCA dissertation award for the best dissertation defended in 2021 in the field of Communication Science in the Netherlands and Flanders. This award was for her PhD thesis entitled: “Consuming media, consuming food? Reactivity to palatable food cues in television content”. 

In the PhD project, Dr. Monique Alblas and (co-)promotors Prof. Dr. Bas van den Putte, Dr. Saar Mollen and Prof. Dr. Marieke Fransen investigated to what extent, for whom, and through what processes exposure to tasty, but often unhealthy food cues embedded in TV content (for instance in tv commercials or cooking shows) may increase unhealthy food choices and food intake. Of particular interest were the role of individual differences in dieting behaviour and self-regulation, as well as underlying processes of goal activation and visual attention for food.

Surprisingly, no evidence was found that exposure to food cues in TV content affects food choices and intake. Some evidence was found for activation of underlying processes that are thought to result in eating (i.e., goal activation, visual attention), but effects were small and highly dependent on other factors (e.g., individual differences, type of content). Taken together, the research findings suggest that the influence of food cues in TV content on immediate food intake is less evident than is often thought. It is therefore recommended to further study indirect or delayed effects of food cues (e.g., frequent exposure to unhealthy food on TV and in other media content may change perceived norms around eating, which may affect dietary patterns over time). Furthermore, we should look beyond the influence of food cues to explain the association between TV viewing and (over)eating, by considering the likely important role of other mechanisms such as distraction (i.e., paying attention to the TV content may reduce awareness of what and how much is eaten, which may result in overconsumption), habits (e.g., learned associations between TV viewing as leisure-time activity and eating snacks) and/or a positive mood induced by TV viewing.

A (Dutch) summary of the research findings can be found here. The PhD thesis of Dr. Monique Alblas can be found here.

List of publications resulting from the PhD research:

  • Alblas, M. C., Boyland, E. J., Fransen, M. L., Mollen, S., Giani, S., Aulbach, M. B., & Van den Putte, B. Psychological and physiological responses to high-calorie, visual food cues in healthy adults: A systematic review. (Under review).
  • Alblas, M. C., Mollen, S., Wennekers, A. M., Fransen, M. L., & Van den Putte, B. (2021). Consuming media, consuming food: investigating concurrent TV viewing and eating using a 7-d time use diary survey. Public Health Nutrition, 1-10. doi:10.1017/S1368980021002858
  • Alblas, M. C., Mollen, S., Fransen, M. L., & Van den Putte, B. (2021). See the cake and have it too? Investigating the effect of watching a TV cooking show on unhealthy food choices. Physiology & Behavior, 236, 113409.
  • Alblas, M. C., Mollen, S., Fransen, M. L., & Van den Putte, B. (2020). Food at first sight: Visual attention to palatable food cues on TV and subsequent unhealthy food intake in unsuccessful restrained eaters. Appetite, 147,
  • Alblas, M. C., Mollen, S., Fransen, M. L., & Van den Putte, B. (2019). Watch what you watch: The effect of exposure to food-related television content on the accessibility of a hedonic eating goal. Appetite, 134, 204–211.