This project was conducted by Anja Dietrich in the research group of Annette Horstmann at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences. The balance between goal-directed and habitual action control was measured in a sample of normal-weight, overweight, and obese participants using the slips-of-action test. We failed to find evidence for a relationship between weight status and sensitivity to outcome devaluation in this test. Independent of weight status, we did observe lower sensitivity to devaluation in sensation seekers, a subtype of impulsivity. This ‘habit propensity’ in sensation seekers may account for previous reports of weak avoidance behavior and risky decision making. In conclusion, behavioral flexibility in the sense of general disturbances in the balance between the habitual and goal-directed systems seems to be unaffected by weight status. Future studies are needed to clarify the role of specific subtypes of obesity (e.g., food addiction).
Reference: Dietrich, A., De Wit, S., Horstmann, A. (2016). General habit propensity relates to the sensation seeking subdomain of impulsivity but not obesity. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 10, 213.