Subjective Happiness and Emotional Responsiveness to Food Stimuli

Abstract

Through three studies, this study aims to investigate the relationship between subjective happiness and responsiveness to eating and to foods. In Study 1, 299 Japanese undergraduates completed the Japanese subjective happiness scale and self-report questionnaires for attitudes toward eating and food. Study 1 revealed that in daily life, people with higher happiness levels show a stronger tendency to feel pleasure by eating than those with lower happiness levels. In Study 2, 26 Japanese undergraduates performed impression assessments for foods when looking at pictures of them. In Study 3, 22 Japanese undergraduates performed the same assessments when looking at real foods and eating them using a comparison with the data from pictures of non-food items as a control condition. The results of the study indicate that people with higher happiness levels show a stronger emotional response (happy and glad) to food stimuli than those with lower happiness levels. Even images of food were effective. No such group differences were observed for appetitive responses. It was also shown that emotional responses to the pictures of non-food items’ condition in the two groups did not differ. The present studies provided empirical evidence that subjective happiness has relevance to daily eating behavior and attitudes. Further studies should investigate the possibility that subjective happiness is related to a wide range of behavior and cognition in our daily life.

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Acknowledgments

We are grateful to Editors Antonella Delle Fave and Despina Moraitou as well as two anonymous reviewers for very helpful comments on this paper. This work was supported in part by JSPS KAKENHI Grant No. 15K04165. The experiment was conducted as a part of the project supported by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), JAPAN, for the Strategic Research Foundation at Private Universities (2015–2019; Project No. S1511032) to the Center for Applied Psychological Science (CAPS), Kwansei Gakuin University.

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Correspondence to Keiko Otake.

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Otake, K., Kato, K. Subjective Happiness and Emotional Responsiveness to Food Stimuli. J Happiness Stud 18, 691–708 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-016-9747-8

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Keywords

  • Subjective happiness
  • Attitude toward food
  • Food-related stimuli
  • Palatability
  • Positive emotion