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Self-control and impulsiveness in children and adults: Effects of food preferences

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Abstract

Experiment 1 used 6 preschool boys and Experiment 2 used 6 adult women to explore the effects of food preference on humans' choice in self-control paradigms. The boys showed a higher proportion of responses for more delayed, larger reinforcers (a measure of self-control) when those choices resulted in receipt of the most preferred food compared to when those choices resulted in the least preferred food. Further, the boys chose the less delayed, smaller reinforcers significantly more often when only those choices, as opposed to both choices, resulted in the most preferred food. Conversely, they chose the more delayed, larger reinforcers significantly more often when only those choices, as opposed to both choices, resulted in the most preferred food. Finally, the women demonstrated significantly less sensitivity to reinforcer amount relative to sensitivity to reinforcer delay (another measure of self-control) when they had a higher preference for the juice received as the less delayed, smaller reinforcer than for the juice received as the more delayed, larger reinforcer. Together, the results show that subjects' food preferences can influence self-control for food reinforcers.

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