Self-restraint spillover: Inhibitory control disrupts appetite regulation among ruminators

Caroline Schlinkert*, Sander L. Koole

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Objective: People can use inhibitory control to temporarily inhibit their personal preferences to achieve their long-term goals. According to the ego fixation model (Koole et al., 2014), ruminators have difficulties relaxing inhibitory control, leading them to continue inhibiting their personal needs, even when this is no longer required by the situation. Inhibitory control may thus disrupt healthy appetite regulation among ruminators. Method: Among 324 Dutch undergraduate students (218 women; Mage = 21.5), different inhibitory control states were manipulated by varying whether or not participants exerted inhibitory control (Study 1) or priming high versus low inhibitory control (Study 2). All participants then performed a food-tasting task. Healthy appetite regulation was defined as a positive correlation between level of food deprivation and preference for high-calorie foods. Results: For taste ratings, the interaction between inhibitory control and rumination was significant in each study: Inhibitory control disrupted healthy appetite regulation in taste preferences among ruminators, but not among non-ruminators. For eating behavior, the same interaction effect was significant when the two studies were combined. Conclusions: Inhibitory control disrupts healthy appetite regulation among ruminators. These findings suggest the need for caution in interventions that rely on inhibitory control, especially among samples with compulsive thought tendencies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)825-840
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Personality
Issue number5
Early online date23 Oct 2017
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2018


  • alienation
  • ego fixation hypothesis
  • psychosomatic
  • self-control
  • state orientation


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