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ABSTRACT

This literature review uses four dimensions to classify and compare how food-related decision-making is conceptualized and experimentally assessed in neuroscience and other disciplines: (1) food-related decision-making other than the decision of what to eat that is part of each eating episode, (2) decision complexes other than the eating episode itself, (3) the evolution of food-related decision-making over time, and (4) the nature of food related decisions. In neuroscience in particular, food-related decision-making research has been dominated by studies exploring the influence of a wide range of factors on the final outcome, the type and amount of foods eaten. In comparison, the steps that are leading up to this outcome have only rarely been discussed. Neuroscientists should broaden their historically narrow conceptualization of food-related decision-making. Then neuroscience research could help group the numerous hypothesized influences for each of the decision complexes into meaningful clusters that rely on the same or similar brain mechanisms and that thus function in similar ways. This strategy could help researchers improve existing broad models of human food-related decision-making from other disciplines. The integration of neuroscientific and behavioral science approaches can lead to a better model of food-related decision-making grounded in the brain and relevant to the design of more effective school and nonschool lifestyle interventions to prevent and treat obesity in children, adolescents, and adults.