Differences in the Desire to Eat in Children and Adults in the Presence of an Obese Eater

Authors

  • Laetitia R.D. Barthomeuf,

    1. Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique, UMR 1019, Centre de Recherche en Nutrition Humaine d'Auvergne, Clermont-Ferrand, France
    2. Université Blaise Pascal, Laboratoire de Psychologie Sociale et Cognitive, Clermont-Ferrand, France
    3. CNRS, UMR 6024, Clermont-Ferrand, France
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  • Sylvie M.N. Droit-Volet,

    1. Université Blaise Pascal, Laboratoire de Psychologie Sociale et Cognitive, Clermont-Ferrand, France
    2. CNRS, UMR 6024, Clermont-Ferrand, France
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  • Sylvie M.E. Rousset

    Corresponding author
    1. Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique, UMR 1019, Centre de Recherche en Nutrition Humaine d'Auvergne, Clermont-Ferrand, France
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(sylvie.rousset@clermont.inra.fr)

Abstract

Previous research has shown that the desire to eat foods decreases in adults in the presence of an obese eater compared to a normal-weight eater. This study investigated whether or not this decrease in eating desire was observed in younger children in the same way as in adults. Children aged 5 and 8 years old, as well as adults, were presented with photographs of liked and disliked foods presented either alone or with normal-weight and obese eaters expressing three different emotions—pleasure, disgust, and neutrality—toward these food products. The results showed that the eater's weight status had a greater effect on the adults' desire to eat than on that of the children. Adults were influenced by the eater's weight status, regardless of the facial expression or the food category. Compared to adults, the impact of the eater's weight status on the children's desire to eat depended on the emotional facial expression and the children's food preferences. Thus, when children did not like the foods, their eating desire was negatively influenced by the eater's obese status, as was that of adults. On the other hand, when children liked the food products, the eater's weight status had no effect on their eating desire. They were more influenced by the eater's facial expressions. Thus, an expression of pleasure increased the desire to eat the liked foods in the younger children, whereas an expression of disgust decreased it. These results are discussed in terms of the high sensitivity of young children to emotional facial expressions.

Introduction

How do we understand other people? According to studies of social cognition, understanding others, judging their intentions and emotions and making attributions for their actions are facilitated by our ability to simulate the physical and emotional states of the perceived person (1,2,3). Several studies have shown that the perceiver automatically mimics the emotional facial expressions of other people (4,5,6). This mimicry reproduces, at least in part, the associated feeling state in the perceiver (7). Thus, the spontaneous mimicry of another person's facial expression is a form of simulation of the emotional expression that enables us to better recognize facial expressions, to better understand the emotional experience of others, and to respond accordingly.

In the domain of eating, recent research has shown that facial emotional expression of other eaters also influences the desire to eat (8,9). More precisely, in adults, the desire to eat increased when they looked at a person expressing pleasure and decreased when the same person expressed disgust toward food products. This effect of the other person's facial expression has been observed at an early age, in children as young as 5 years old (10). The authors explained their results by the mimicry of the other person's facial expression that is an automatic and unconscious process established early during childhood (11,12,13). In addition, the magnitude of this emotional effect on the desire to eat appeared to be greater in children than in adults, as if children echo other people's emotions more than adults. Within the theoretical framework of the development of inhibitory capacities (14,15,16), this is explained by young children's difficulties in inhibiting the mimicry automatically triggered by the perception of emotional signs on another person's face (4,17). In the same way, children have difficulties in modulating their own emotional response and involuntarily initiating emotional expression (18,19). This suggests that emotions expressed by others (i.e., adults) toward foods would particularly affect the eating behavior of children.

However, in a recent study, Barthomeuf, Rousset, and Droit-Volet (20) revealed that in adults, the effect of emotional facial expression on the desire to eat depended on the weight status of the eater expressing this emotion. In fact, the desire to eat increased less in the presence of an obese eater who expressed pleasure than in the presence of a normal-weight eater who expressed the same emotion. In the case of adults, the desire to eat a food product decreased in the presence of an obese eater compared to a normal-weight eater. In our diet-conscious society that preaches the ideal of thinness, obesity is considered as a form of social deviance (21). Obese individuals are described as lazy, sloppy, lacking in self-discipline, overindulgent, and having poor personal hygiene (22). These negative attitudes have translated into discrimination toward obese individuals in a number of settings, including the workplace, medical and healthcare settings, educational settings, and housing (23,24). It is thus likely that these negative attitudes affect the judgment about the behavior of obese individuals, including their eating behavior. Furthermore, obesity is associated with eating disorders and represents a serious risk to health (diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, etc.) (25). It is therefore also likely that knowledge associated with obesity would produce a negative appraisal of foods when they are eaten by an obese person, thus reducing the impact of his/her facial expression of pleasure on the desire to eat these foods in the perceiver.

In children, several studies have revealed that they are already aware of the stereotypes of obese people. They believe that their overweight counterparts possess more negative personality and behavioral characteristics than normal-weight children (26,27). Specifically, they are more likely to assign negative adjectives such as lonely, lazy, sad, stupid, ugly, and dirty to an overweight child than to a normal-weight or lean child (28,29). As a consequence, Bell and Morgan (30) revealed that children are reluctant to play with overweight peers. According to Cramer and Steinwert (31), these negative attitudes about obesity and fat stereotypes would be present in children as young as 3 years of age and increase as the children get older (32,33).

In this study, the question is: Does the perception of an eater expressing different emotions toward foods have a lower impact on eating desire when the eater is obese as opposed to normal-weight in children, like in adults? In order to try to address this question, children aged 5 and 8 years old as well as adults were presented with photographs of obese and normal-weight eaters expressing pleasure, disgust, and neutrality toward liked and disliked foods. We expected that the eaters' weight status would moderate the influence of emotional facial expressions on the desire to eat. However, since the knowledge of negative stereotypes on obesity increases with age, we assumed that the negative influence of the emotional expressions of obese eaters would have a smaller effect on the desire to eat in the youngest children.

Methods and Procedures

Participants

The sample was composed of 120 participants: 40 five-year-old children (5.2 ± 0.3), 40 eight-year-old children (8.3 ± 0.5), and 40 adults (20.8 ± 1.9), each age group was composed of 20 males and 20 females. Children were recruited in primary school and adults were students from the University of Blaise Pascal, all from Clermont-Ferrand, France. The students received course credit as compensation. All participants were normal-weight for adults (BMI between 19.5 and 24.9); for children, (BMI <85th percentile).

Materials and Procedure

The participants were tested individually in a quiet classroom for children and in a laboratory room for adults. The stimuli used for the task consisted of two series of photographs presented on a computer screen. The first series of photographs (food presented alone) was composed of six food products pretested by Barthomeuf et al. (10): three liked foods (i.e., chocolate, cream cake, bread) and three disliked foods (i.e., black pudding, kidney, cooked sausage with vegetables) (Figure 1). The second series (food presented with an eater) was composed of 36 photographs: two female eaters (one normal-weight and one obese chosen from among four different women) expressing three facial emotions (pleasure, disgust, and neutrality) toward the six food products (20) (Figure 2). The presentation order of these two series of photographs was counterbalanced across subjects. Within each series, photographs were presented in random order. The participants were told that they had to assess their desire to eat the product shown on each photograph on a horizontal scale (from the left, “I have no desire to eat”, to the right, “I have a great desire to eat”). Scores varied between 0 and 10.

Figure 1.

Photographs of the three liked foods and the three disliked foods.

Figure 2.

Examples of normal-weight and obese eaters with expressions of disgust, neutrality, and pleasure toward liked and disliked foods.

Results

Desire to eat food products presented alone

A repeated measures analysis of variance was run on the desire to eat food products presented alone with the age and sex of participants as between-subject factors and the six food products as within-subject factors. This ANOVA highlighted a main effect of food products, F(5, 570) = 537.45, P < 0.001. As shown in Figure 3, this main effect indicated that the desire to eat was higher for the liked foods (chocolate (8.7 ± 1.5), cream cake (8.6 ± 2.0), and bread (7.9 ± 1.9) than for the disliked foods (cooked sausage with vegetables (1.9 ± 2.4), kidney (1.4 ± 2.0), and black pudding (0.7 ± 1.5). Consequently, the subsequent analyses of variance were run on the food category (i.e., liked and disliked foods) and not on the specific food product. Moreover, the overall ANOVA revealed that the desire to eat the foods was stronger in males (5.0 ± 0.1) than in females (4.7 ± 0.1), F(1, 114) = 4.48, P < 0.05. The participant's sex did not interact with any other factor. The participant's age did not reach significance and is not involved in any interaction. In sum, the desire to eat the liked and disliked foods presented in this study was similar in children and adults.

Figure 3.

Scores of the desire to eat the liked and the disliked foods presented alone as a function of the participant's age. Data are presented as mean ± s.d.

Impact of facial expressions and weight status of the eater

A difference score was calculated between the desire to eat foods in the presence and in the absence of an eater for each food category (liked and disliked foods) and each facial expression (neutrality, pleasure, disgust) expressed by the normal-weight and the obese eater. For each emotional facial expression taken separately, we ran a repeated ANOVA on this difference score with food category and eater's weight status as within-subject factors, and the age and sex of participants as between-subject factors.

Pleasure expressions. For the faces expressing pleasure, the ANOVA showed a main effect of food category, F(1, 114) = 207.56, of age, F(2, 114) = 43.94, and of the eater's weight status, F(1, 114) = 18.64, all P < 0.001. There was also a significant interaction between food category, the eater's weight status and the sex and age of participants, F(2, 114) = 4.61, P < 0.05. This four-way interaction was broken down by conducting ANOVAs on the two food categories (i.e., liked and disliked foods) separately.

For the liked foods, the results revealed a main effect of the eater's weight status, F(1, 114) = 13.21, a main effect of the participant's age, F(2, 114) = 16.31, and an interaction between the eater's weight status and the participant's age, F(2, 114) = 3.59, P < 0.05. For each type of eater, normal-weight, or obese, there was a significant main effect of age, F(2, 114) = 8.33, F(2, 114) = 15.05, respectively, all P < 0.001, suggesting that the effect of the facial expression of pleasure on the desire to eat a liked food was greater in the younger children, regardless of the eater's weight status. Moreover, when the eater was normal-weight, the magnitude of difference scores was higher for the 5-year-olds than for both the 8-year-olds (Scheffe tests, P < 0.05) and the adults (Scheffe tests, P < 0.01). In contrast, there was no significant difference between the 8-year-olds and the adults (Scheffe tests, P > 0.05). In the same way, when the eater was obese, the difference scores were higher for the 5- and the 8-year-olds than for the adults (Scheffe tests, both P < 0.01), and no significant difference between the two children's groups was observed (Scheffe tests, P > 0.05) (Figure 4). In fact, in the adults and the 8-year-olds, the facial expression of pleasure toward the liked foods did not improve the desire to eat them, and the difference scores were not different from zero for the normal-weight eater, t(39) = −1.41, P > 0.05, t(39) = 0.33, P > 0.05, respectively. When the eater was obese, the desire to eat the liked foods decreased in the adults, and the difference scores were significantly lower than zero, t(39) = −4.86, P < 0.001, but remained stable in the 8-year-olds, t(39) = −0.8, P > 0.05. In contrast, in the youngest children, aged 5 years old, viewing another eater expressing pleasure increased their desire to eat the liked foods, regardless of the BMI of the eater, normal-weight, t(39) = 3.42, P < 0.01, and obese eater, t(39) = 2.26, P < 0.05. Moreover, the amplitude of this increase did not differ according to the eater's weight status, t(39) = 1.05, P > 0.05. In sum, in the presence of an obese individual expressing pleasure toward the liked food products, the desire to eat these foods did not decrease in the children, unlike in the adults.

Figure 4.

The difference in scores between food presented with pleasant faces of a normal-weight (NW) and obese (OB) eater and food presented alone as a function of the participant's age. Data are presented as mean ± s.d.

Finally, there was also a three-way interaction between eater's weight status, age and sex, F(2, 114) = 6.75, P < 0.01. This significant interaction was only due to the adults' responses, no significant difference being observed between the boys and girls in the 5-year-old group and in the 8-year-old group in the two eaters' weight status conditions, normal-weight eater, t(38) = −0.71, t(38) = −1.04, and obese eater, t(38) = 0.11, t(38) = −1.38, respectively, all P > 0.05. In adults, when the eater who expressed pleasure toward the liked foods was normal-weight, the desire to eat these liked foods was greater in men (0.33 ± 0.7) than in women (−0.78 ± 1), t(38) = 4.07, P < 0.001. However, it was the reverse when the eater was obese, decreasing the desire to eat more in men (−1.7 ± 1.7) than in women (−0.54 ± 0.7), t(38) = −2.73, P < 0.05.

For the disliked foods, the ANOVA showed a main effect of age, F(2, 114) = 30.96, P < 0.001, indicating that the facial expression of pleasure increased the desire to eat the disliked foods more in children than in adults. Thus, the difference scores were higher for children than for adults (Scheffe tests, both P < 0.001) and higher for the 5-year-olds than for the 8-year-olds (Scheffe tests, P < 0.01). There was also a main effect of the eater's weight status, F(1, 114) = 4.19, P < 0.05, the other main effects or interaction not being significant. The difference scores increased more in the presence of a normal-weight eater's pleasant face (3.33 ± 3.2) than an obese eater's pleasant face (3.06 ± 3.4). In sum, the desire to eat the disliked foods increased in the presence of another eater expressing pleasure toward these foods to a greater extent in the children than in the adults. However, this increase in the desire to eat was relatively lower in the presence of an obese eater as opposed to a normal-weight eater in children as in adults.

Disgusted expressions. For the disgusted faces, the ANOVA run on the difference scores revealed a main effect of food category, F(1, 114) = 224.62, of age, F(2, 114) = 17.11, and of the eater's weight status, F(1, 114) = 35.25, all P < 0.001. The ANOVA also showed a significant interaction between food category, the eater's weight status, sex, and age, F(2, 114) = 3.44, P < 0.05. Thus, as was done above, we broke down the four-way interaction by conducting ANOVAs on the two food categories (i.e., liked and disliked foods) separately.

For the liked foods, the ANOVA revealed a main effect of the eater's weight status, F(1, 114) = 15.5, and of the participant's age, F(2, 114) = 20.92, all P < 0.001, as well as an interaction between the eater's weight status and the age and sex of the participant, F(2, 114) = 6.06, P < 0.01. The main effect of sex was not significant, F(1, 114) = 0.7, P > 0.05. For both the normal-weight and the obese eaters, there was a significant main effect of age, F(2, 114) = 23.43, F(2, 114) = 13.95, respectively, all P < 0.001. Thus, the disgusted expression had a stronger influence on the younger children's desire to eat the liked foods, regardless of the eater's weight status. Indeed, when the eater was normal-weight, the difference scores were higher in children than in adults (Scheffe tests, both P < 0.05), and higher in the 5-year-olds than in the 8-year-olds (Scheffe tests, P < 0.001). Similarly, when the eater was obese, the difference scores were higher for the 5-year-olds than for both the 8-year-olds (Scheffe tests, P < 0.01) and the adults (Scheffe tests, P < 0.001), while no significant difference was found between the older children and the adults (Scheffe tests, P > 0.05) (Figure 5). In any case, the one sample t-test revealed that the difference scores were significantly lower than zero for both the normal-weight and the obese eater, in the 5-year-olds, t(39) = −11.08; t(39) = −10.90, the 8-year-olds, t(39) = −8.54, t(39) = −9.11, and the adults, t(39) = −8.76; t(39) = −7.69, all P < 0.001. However, the comparison of the difference amplitude as a function of the eater's weight status showed that for adults, the decrease in the presence of a disgusted face was greater in the case of the obese eater (−2.6 ± 2.1) than in that of the normal-weight eater (−1.6 ± 1.2), t(39) = 2.99, P < 0.01. In contrast, for children, the decrease was similar in the presence of a disgusted face expressed by a normal-weight eater or by an obese eater, 5-year-olds, t(39) = 1.78, 8-year-olds, t(39) = 1.66, all P > 0.05. In addition, in the case of the obese eater, the ANOVA also revealed a significant interaction between age and sex, F(2, 114) = 2.66, P < 0.05. In children, there was no significant difference between the boys and girls at 5 and 8 years old, t(38) = 0.81, t(38) = 0.78, respectively, all P > 0.05. On the contrary, in the adult participants, the magnitude of the difference scores when an obese eater expressed disgust toward the liked foods was more highly negative in men (−3.59 ± 2.2) than in women (−1.61 ± 1.6), t(38) = 2.9, P < 0.01. In sum, a disgusted face decreased the desire to eat the liked foods, and to a greater extent in children than in adults. However, unlike in children for whom there was no difference in the desire to eat as a function of the eater's weight status, in adults, a disgusted face presented by an obese eater decreased their desire to eat the liked foods to a greater extent, especially for men.

Figure 5.

The difference in scores between food presented with disgusted faces of a normal-weight (NW) and obese (OB) eater and food presented alone as a function of the participant's age. Data are presented as mean ± s.d.

For the disliked foods, there was only a main effect of the eater's weight status, F(1, 114) = 26.28, P < 0.001, indicating that the desire to eat the disliked foods in the presence of a disgusted face once again decreased more in the presence of an obese eater (−0.46 ± 1.1) than in the presence of a normal-weight eater (0.06 ± 1.4), regardless of the participant's age (Figure 5). Therefore, when the foods were disliked, perceiving another disgusted eater did not change the desire to eat these foods when the eater was normal-weight, t(119) = 0.48, P > 0.05. However, when the eater was obese, her disgusted facial expression amplified the decrease in eating desire that was already low, for adults as well as for children, t(119) = −4.44, P < 0.001.

Neutral expressions. For the neutral faces, the ANOVA showed a significant main effect of the eater's weight status, F(1, 114) = 18.48, P < 0.001, but no significant interaction involving this factor. Thus, regardless of the food category and the age or sex of the participant, the desire to eat was greater in the presence of a neutral facial expression on a normal-weight eater (0.12 ± 0.12) than on an obese eater (−0.35 ± 0.11).

Furthermore, the ANOVA showed a main effect of food category, F(1, 114) = 182.76, and a significant food category × age interaction, F(2, 114) = 8.87, all P < 0.001, the main effect of age not being significant, F(2, 114) = 1.69, P > 0.05. The desire to eat the liked foods did not differ according to the age of the participants, F(2, 117) = 2.37, P > 0.05, suggesting that the facial expression of neutrality decreased the desire to eat the liked foods to the same extent in children as in adults, t(119) = −11.69, P < 0.001.

In contrast, for the disliked foods, there was a significant main effect of age, F(2, 117) = 7.93, P < 0.01. Thus, in the presence of a neutral face, the desire to eat the disliked foods increased more in young children than in adults. The difference scores were in fact higher for the 5-year-olds than for the adults (Scheffe tests, P < 0.01). However, there was no significant difference between the 8-year-olds and the adults, and between the two groups of children (Scheffe tests, all P > 0.05) (Figure 6). Regardless of the case, the neutral face increased the desire to eat disliked foods in all of the age groups, the one sample t-test indicating that the difference scores were significantly greater than zero in the 5-year-olds, t(39) = 6.08, P < 0.001, in the 8-year-olds, t(39) = 5.26, P < 0.001, and in adults, t(39) = 3.06, P < 0.01. In sum, a neutral face decreased the desire to eat the liked foods and increased the desire to eat the disliked foods, especially in the younger children, but to a lesser extent when neutrality was expressed by an obese eater.

Figure 6.

The difference in scores between food presented with neutral faces of a normal-weight (NW) and obese (OB) eater and food presented alone as a function of the participant's age. Data are presented as mean ± s.d.

Discussion

The main purpose of this study was to investigate the influence of emotions expressed by another eater as a function of his/her weight status on the desire to eat food in children and adults. As expected, results in adults revealed that compared to a normal-weight eater, an obese eater moderated, and/or decreased the desire to eat, regardless of her facial expression. Thus, the perception of a normal-weight eater that expressed pleasure did not change the desire to eat food that was already liked, but increased the desire to eat the disliked foods. In contrast, the perception of the same emotion expressed by an obese eater decreased the desire to eat the liked foods and maintained the desire to eat the disliked foods at a low level. Furthermore, the desire to eat decreased for both the liked and the disliked foods more when the adults perceived an obese eater expressing disgust than when they perceived a normal-weight eater expressing the same emotion. Finally, the desire to eat the liked and disliked foods was lower in the presence of an obese eater, even when their emotion was neutral. In sum, the presence of an obese eater systematically decreases the desire to eat food products in adults.

The originality of this study was to show that the perception of obese eaters has a strong influence on the desire to eat in children and in adults. However, in children, this influence was moderated by their basic food preferences. When children liked the food products, such as chocolate or cream cake, the weight status of the other eater had little or no effect on their desire to eat these products. However, contrary to adults who showed a decrease in their desire to eat the liked foods in the presence of an obese eater who expressed pleasure toward these foods, the children's desire to eat these liked foods increased in the presence of both an obese and a normal-weight eater, with no effect of weight status detected. In the same way, perceiving another eater expressing disgust toward liked foods decreased the desire to eat these foods in children to the same extent, regardless of whether the eater was obese or not, while the decrease was systematically greater in the presence of an obese eater than a normal-weight eater in adults. On the other hand, when the children did not like the food products (kidney, black pudding, cooked sausage with vegetables), they tended to behave as the adults did. Like them, their desire to eat the disliked foods in the presence of a neutral or a pleasant face was lower when these facial expressions were expressed by an obese eater than by a normal-weight eater. Similarly, the desire to eat the disliked foods decreased in the presence of a disgusted eater but once again, to a greater extent when the eater was obese rather than normal-weight. Consequently, the desire to eat liked foods was not altered by the presence of obese eaters in children, unlike in adults, whereas the lack of desire to eat disliked foods seems to be reinforced by the presence of obese eaters in children as well as in adults.

In accordance with the results found by Barthomeuf et al., (8) our results showed the strong influence of social context on the desire to eat food products, and especially of the perception of emotions expressed by other people toward food. However, our results also revealed that the desire to eat did not depend only on other people's emotional facial expression but on the interaction between the emotion expressed and the weight status of the person who is expressing this emotion. Our study clearly revealed a smaller increase in the adults' desire to eat food products in the presence of eaters expressing pleasure when these eaters were obese, compared to normal-weight. This result was entirely consistent with the studies showing that obesity is associated with negative stereotypical traits. In fact, there is a great deal of evidence that our society holds negative attitudes toward obese individuals (22). Body weight stigmatization has clear negative consequences in relation to social interactions (34). Consequently, it should have moderated the process of embodying other people's emotions by activating a negative assessment of the food-related behavior. This idea is entirely consistent with the one suggested by Barthomeuf et al. (20), according to which weight status limits the embodiment of emotional facial expression of the other person, as in the case of ethnicity or race (35). An obese individual represents someone who does not want to be liked, someone who disgusts others (36). Therefore, people are not motivated to affiliate, to empathize, and to maintain positive relationships with obese individuals. This is emphasized by our results concerning the adult men who showed a greater decrease in their eating desire in the presence of an obese eater (all women in our experiment) than the women did. This is probably due to the fact that the men found the obese women unattractive. They might therefore be less motivated to seduce them or to affiliate with them, thus increasing their negative emotions. In sum, during a meal, the social representation of our counterparts may affect the impact of their emotional feeling toward food products on our own desire to eat these food products.

This study also suggested that the negative attitudes toward obese individuals that affected eating-related behavior were present in young children. Like in adults, when the 5-year-old children perceived an obese person, their desire to eat food products decreased. This is consistent with the results of studies demonstrating that stereotypes associated with obesity are acquired as early as 3 years of age (31). However, our study suggested that the influence of negative representations in children toward obese people eating with them would also have competed with the influence of their basic emotional feeling toward food products. In fact, when the children particularly liked a food product (bread, chocolate, cream cake), the effect of the eater's weight status disappeared. The stereotypical traits on obesity are negative rather than positive (L. Barthomeuf, S. Guimond, S. Rousset, S. Droit-Volet, unpublished data). Consequently, it may be supposed that, when there was a congruence between children's emotions toward the food products (disliked foods) and the activation in working memory of negative attitudes toward their counterparts (e.g., health risks, lack of self-discipline), this reinforced their rejection of the food products. In contrast, when there was no congruence (e.g., liked foods with the activation of negative attitudes toward the other eater), the effect of these social representations was lower on the desire to eat the liked foods. One explanation might be that the consciousness of negative representations associated with the other would not be established strongly enough in young children to regulate or control the primary mechanisms triggered by their own emotions, both those expressed toward food or perceived in the other. At 8 years of age, this regulation of emotion by the consciousness of the other in the social interaction would be more developed, as suggested by the similarity of the present results in 8-year-olds and in adults. The difficulty to regulate eating-related emotions may be linked to the maturation of the prefrontal cortex that plays a critical role in the development of attention executive function (37). Further investigations are nevertheless required to identify the age changes in the regulation of eating-related emotions with respect to nutrition education. This is a real avenue for future research. From a psychosocial perspective, it would also be important to investigate the effect of the familiarity with obese people on other people's attitude toward them, as well as the effect of socioeconomic level. Indeed, prior research suggests that antifat attitudes (38) differ as a function of socioeconomic level. Among children aged from 4 to 11 years, from six schools that varied in relation to the social background of their pupils, those who demonstrated strongly negative attitudes toward obesity were older children and those from the schools with a higher social status (38). In addition, future research should use more ecological situations to be able to generalize our results on eating desire in relation to food intake, although both are related, as demonstrated by Marcelino et al. (39).

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

We would like to thank the children, theirs teachers and the adults who participated in this research. This research was supported by a grant from the French National Research Agency (ANR Blan06-2-145908 FaceExpress).

DISCLOSURE

The authors declared no conflict of interest.

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