For the most part, flavour preferences and dietary habits are acquired over time. I have been preoccupied by the psychological processes that underpin this kind of learning. I am also interested in the ways in which this dietary learning might differ across groups of individuals, for example, in those who do and do not consciously restrict their dietary intake. More generally, I have an interest in the relationship between cognition and dietary control. For example, projects have explored the interplay between attention (focused and divided) and meal size. I am also interested in understanding the ‘reactivity’ that is experienced after exposure to the sight and smell food and how heightened reactivity might promote overweight and obesity.
Recently, I have focused on projects exploring decisions about portion size. Researchers with an interest in energy intake tend to focus on psychological and biological events that occur towards the end of a meal. However, what is often overlooked is that energy intake (meal size) tends to be determined before a meal begins. My research explores the basis on which decisions about portion size are made. My studies show that anticipated fullness and satisfaction are critical. Indeed, ‘expected satiation’ and ‘expected satiety’ may be the key drivers of the number of calories that we put on our plate (even more important than palatability). Currently, we are working on a BBSRC-Funded project [DRINC initiative] to explore the origin of these expectations and how they might be learned over time.
Over the next 36 months I will be working on two further BBSRC-funded projects. The first of these will explore the effects of variability in our dietary environment. Increasingly, commercial foods differ in their size, energy density, macronutrient composition, and so on. My group will determine whether these sources of variability compromise our capacity to regulate our energy intake.
In a second BBSRC-funded project (LINK) we will be working with an industry partner (Nestle) to explore the effects of eating behaviour on food intake. For a long time, researchers have suspected that obesity is associated with a particular eating style, eating quickly in particular. Under controlled conditions it would seem that eating at a slower rate produces both an increase in self-reported fullness and a reduction in meal size. Moreover, epidemiological studies indicate that eating rate is a good predictor of bodyweight. For the first time, my team aim to expose the mechanism that underlies this effect. In turn, this work has the potential to lead to novel treatments for obesity and the design of foods that reduce our calorie intake from meal to meal.
I was awarded a Ph.D. from the University of Birmingham (UK). This work explored the relationship between thirst and beverage choice. In 1999 I took a lectureship in the Department of Human Sciences at Loughborough University (UK). In 2005 I moved to the University of Bristol (UK). My current position is Professor of Experimental Psychology. I co-lead the Nutrition and Behaviour Unit with Professor Peter Rogers. This is one of the largest groups of its kind in the UK, supporting many doctoral and post-doctoral researchers. Major research themes include appetite, weight control, diet, and the control of meal size. The unit receives financial support from both UK research councils and several international industry partners. I am a member of the BBSRC-DRINC Club and I sit on the Food Sector Steering Committee of the UK Biosciences Knowledge Transfer Network. In 2011 I received the Alan N. Epstein Award for my contribution in advancing our understanding of ingestive behaviour.
Director of Taught Postgraduate Courses and Programme Director of the MSc in Research Methods
I am an experimental psychologist with an interest in ?behavioural nutrition.? Broadly, this incorporates decisions and behaviours associated with food choice, portion size, and energy intake. In particular, I have been preoccupied by the psychological processes that underpin the acquisition of flavour preferences and dietary habits over time. I am also interested in the ways in which this dietary learning might differ across groups of individuals, and the relationship between cognition and dietary control more generally. I am also interested in understanding the ?reactivity? that is experienced after exposure to the sight and smell food and how heightened reactivity might promote overweight and obesity. Recently, my research has focused on projects exploring decisions about portion size. My studies show that anticipated fullness and satisfaction are critical. Currently, two research projects (funded by the BBSRC [DRINC initiative] and an industry partner) are exploring the origin of these expectations and how they might be learned over time.
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