Development and Preliminary Validation of the Anticipated Effects of Food Scale

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Expectancy theory has been widely applied in substance use research but has received less attention in eating behavior research. Measuring food expectancies, or the anticipated outcomes of eating specific foods, holds theoretical and practical promise for investigations into nonhomeostatic eating behavior. The current study developed and assessed the psychometric properties of a novel measure of positively and negatively valenced highly (e.g., sweets, salty snacks, fast foods, sugary drinks) and minimally (e.g., fruits, vegetables) processed food expectancies. The Anticipated Effects of Food Scale (AEFS) was adapted from a self-report of alcohol expectancies, piloted for item generation/retention and readability, and preliminarily validated in an adult sample (N = 247; Mage = 36.84; 53.3% male; 74.5% White). Consistent with the substance expectancies literature, AEFS positive highly processed food expectancies were associated with greater added sugars intake, r = .17, p = .009, and food addiction symptoms, r = .56, p < .001. Of note, AEFS negative minimally processed food expectancies were robustly associated with food addiction symptoms, r = .81, p < .001, and, together with AEFS positive highly processed food expectancies, explained 67% of the variance in food addiction symptoms. Furthermore, AEFS food expectancies demonstrated incremental validity with food addiction symptoms above and beyond general eating expectancies. The AEFS seems to be a psychometrically sound measure and can be used to investigate cognitive-affective mechanisms implicated in highly processed food intake and food addiction. Moreover, the present results provide new insight into potential food expectancy challenge intervention approaches for preventing nonhomeostatic eating behavior.

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