Skip to main content

The Role of Reward Sensitivity and Impulsivity in Overeating and Food Addiction


Purpose of Review

This paper reviews the contribution of individual differences in two personality traits linked to addiction and over-consumption—impulsivity and reward sensitivity—in the context of overeating and food addiction.

Recent Findings

There has been a rapid increase in the number of studies into overeating with a specific focus of late on food addiction. This review found trait impulsivity to be consistently associated with overeating and food addiction, while reward sensitivity has met with mixed results. While associated with overeating and food-cued cravings, reward sensitivity is less frequently associated with food addiction.


The inclusion of impulsivity-related traits has gathered momentum in recent years adding additional understanding of individual factors that play roles in overeating that may lead to more severe overeating and obesity. Greater research is now required to determine the processes by which trait impulsivity and reward sensitivity lead to overeating behaviours.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance

  1. 1.

    Colaguiri S, Lee CMY, Colaguiri R, Magliano D, Shaw JE, Zimmet PZ, et al. The cost of overweight and obesity in Australia. Med J Aust. 2010;192:260–4.

    Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Ng M, Fleming T, Robinson M, Thomson B, Graetz N, Margono C, et al. Global, regional, and national prevalence of overweight and obesity in children and adults during 1980–2013: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013. Lancet. 2014;384:766–81.

    PubMed  PubMed Central  Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    Australian Insiitute of Health and Welfare. A picture of overweight and obesity in Australia. 216. Canberra: AIHW; 2017. p. 2017.

    Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Flegal KM, Carroll MD, Kit BK, Ogden CL. Prevalence of obesity and trends in the distribution of body mass index among US adults, 1999-2010. JAMA. 2012;307(5):491–7.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Ogden CL, Carroll MD, Kit BK, Flegal KM. Prevalence of obesity and trends in body mass index among US children and adolescents, 1999-2010. JAMA. 2012;307(5):483–90.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Davis C. From passive overeating to “food addiction”: a spectrum of compulsion and severity. ISRN Obesity. 2013;2013:1–20.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Pursey KM, Davis C, Burrows TL. Nutritional aspects of food addiction. Curr Addict Rep. 2017;4(2):142–50.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Schag K, Schonleber J, Teufel M, Zipfel S, Giel KE. Food-related impulsivity in obesity and binge eating disorder—a systematic review. Obes Rev. 2013;14(6):477–95.

    PubMed  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Gearhardt AN, Corbin WR, Brownell KD. Preliminary validation of the Yale Food Addiction Scale. Appetite. 2009;52(2):430–6.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Davis C. Evolutionary and neuropsychological perspectives on addictive behaviors and addictive substances: relevance to the “food addiction” construct. Subst Abuse Rehabil. 2014;5:129–37.

    PubMed  PubMed Central  Article  Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Meule A, Gearhardt AN. Five years of the Yale Food Addiction Scale: taking stock and moving forward. Curr Addict Rep. 2014;1:193–205.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Gearhardt AN, Davis C, Kushner R, Brownell KD. The addiction potential of hyperpalatable foods. Curr Drug Abuse Rev. 2011;4:140–5.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Davis C. An introduction to the special issue on ‘food addiction’. Appetite. 2017;115:1–2.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    • Gullo MJ, Potenza MN. Impulsivity: mechanisms, moderators and implications for addictive behaviors. Addict Behav. 2014;39:1543–6. An editorial introduction to a special issue on the role of impulsivity in addiction with a focus on multidimensional facets of impulsivity, including reward sensitivity.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Moeller FG, Barratt ES, Dougherty DM, Schmitz JM, Swann AC. Psychiatric aspects of impulsivity. Am J Psychiatry. 2001;158(11):1783–93.

    PubMed  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    Meda SA, Stevens MC, Potenza MN, Pittman B, Gueorguieva R, Andrews MM, et al. Investigating the behavioral and self-report constructs of impulsivity domains using principal component analysis. Behav Pharm. 2009;20(5–6):390–9.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    Dawe S, Loxton NJ. The role of impulsivity in the development of substance use and eating disorders. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2004;28(3):343–51.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    Dawe S, Gullo MJ, Loxton NJ. Reward drive and rash impulsiveness as dimensions of impulsivity: implications for substance misuse. Addict Behav. 2004;29(7):1389–405.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    Dissabandara LO, Loxton NJ, Dias SR, Dodd PR, Daglish M, Stadlin A. Dependent heroin use and associated risky behaviour: the role of rash impulsiveness and reward sensitivity. Addict Behav. 2014;39(1):71–6.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  20. 20.

    Schag K, Teufel M, Junne F, Preissl H, Hautzinger M, Zipfel S, et al. Impulsivity in binge eating disorder: food cues elicit increased reward responses and disinhibition. PLoS One. 2013;8(10):e76542.

    PubMed  PubMed Central  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  21. 21.

    Patton JH, Stanford MS, Barratt ES. Factor structure of the Barratt impulsiveness scale. J Clin Psych. 1995;51:768–74.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  22. 22.

    Gray JA. The psychophysiological basis of introversion-extraversion. Behav Res Ther. 1970;8:249–66.

    PubMed  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  23. 23.

    Gray JA, McNaughton N. The neuropsychology of anxiety: an enquiry into the functions of the septo-hippocampal system. 2nd ed. Oxford psychology series 33. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2000.

    Google Scholar 

  24. 24.

    Corr PJ. The reinforcement sensitivity theory of personality. In: Corr PJ, Matthews G, editors. Cambridge handbook of personality psychology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 2009. p. 347–76.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  25. 25.

    Kennis M, Rademaker AR, Geuze E. Neural correlates of personality: an integrative review. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2013;37(1):73–95.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  26. 26.

    Carver CS, White TL. Behavioral inhibition, behavioral activation, and affective responses to impending reward and punishment: the BIS/BAS scales. J Pers Soc Psychol. 1994;67(2):319–33.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. 27.

    Torrubia R, Avila C, Molto J, Caseras X. The Sensitivity to Punishment and Sensitivity to Reward Questionnaire (SPSRQ) as a measure of Gray’s anxiety and impulsivity dimensions. Pers Individ Dif. 2001;31(6):837–62.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. 28.

    • Corr PJ. Reinforcement sensitivity theory of personality questionnaires: structural survey with recommendations. Pers Individ Dif. 2016;89:60–4. Reviews the current state of self-report measures used in light of the major revision of the Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory of personality

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. 29.

    • Walker BR, Jackson CJ. Examining the validity of the revised Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory scales. Pers Individ Dif. 2017;106:90–4. Systematically reviews self-report measures purposely built to measure the Revised Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory and provides guidance on choosing measures of this theory.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. 30.

    Gullo MJ, Dawe S, Kambouropoulos N, Staiger PK, Jackson CJ. Alcohol expectancies and drinking refusal self-efficacy mediate the association of impulsivity with alcohol misuse. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2010:1386–99.

  31. 31.

    Harnett PH, Lynch SJ, Gullo MJ, Dawe S, Loxton N. Personality, cognition and hazardous drinking: support for the 2-component approach to reinforcing substances model. Addict Behav. 2013;38(12):2945–8.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  32. 32.

    Gullo MJ, Loxton NJ, Dawe S. Impulsivity: four ways five factors are not basic to addiction. Addict Behav. 2014;39:1547–56.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  33. 33.

    Gullo MJ, Loxton NJ, Price T, Voisey J, Young RM, Connor JP. A laboratory model of impulsivity and alcohol use in late adolescence. Behav Res Ther. 2017;97:52–63.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  34. 34.

    Loxton NJ, Tipman RJ. Reward sensitivity and food addiction in women. Appetite. 2017;115:28–35.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  35. 35.

    Maxwell AL, Loxton NJ, Hennegan JM. Exposure to food cues moderates the indirect effect of reward sensitivity and external eating via implicit eating expectancies. Appetite. 2017;111:135–41.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  36. 36.

    Lyvers M, Duff H, Basch V, Edwards MS. Rash impulsiveness and reward sensitivity in relation to risky drinking by university students: potential roles of frontal systems. Addict Behav. 2012;37(8):940–6.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  37. 37.

    Hennegan JM, Loxton NJ, Mattar A. Great expectations. Eating expectancies as mediators of reinforcement sensitivity and eating. Appetite. 2013;71:81–8.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  38. 38.

    Loxton NJ, Wan VL, Ho AM, Cheung BK, Tam N, Leung FY, et al. Impulsivity in Hong Kong-Chinese club-drug users. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2008;95(1–2):81–9.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  39. 39.

    •• Giel KE, Teufel M, Junne F, Zipfel S, Schag K. Food-related impulsivity in obesity and binge eating disorder—a systematic update of the evidence. Nutrients. 2017;9(11) Provides a systematic review of 20 studies since 2012 looking at obesity/binge eating disorder and impulsivity/reward sensitivity including studies using food cue exposure and across adults and children. Focus in this review is primarily on behavioral tasks assessing impulsivity and reward sensitivity.

  40. 40.

    Waxman SE. A systematic review of impulsivity in eating disorders. European eating disorders review : the journal of the Eating Disorders Association. 2009;17(6):408–425.

  41. 41.

    Davis C, Curtis C, Levitan RD, Carter JC, Kaplan AS, Kennedy JL. Evidence that ‘food addiction’ is a valid phenotype of obesity. Appetite. 2011;57(3):711–7.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  42. 42.

    Meule A, Lutz A, Vogele C, Kubler A. Women with elevated food addiction symptoms show accelerated reactions, but no impaired inhibitory control, in response to pictures of high-calorie food-cues. Eat Behav. 2012;13(4):423–8.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  43. 43.

    Dietrich A, Federbusch M, Grellmann C, Villringer A, Horstmann A. Body weight status, eating behavior, sensitivity to reward/punishment, and gender: relationships and interdependencies. Front Psychol. 2014;5:1073.

    PubMed  PubMed Central  Article  Google Scholar 

  44. 44.

    Meule A, Lutz APC, Vögele C, Kübler A. Impulsive reactions to food-cues predict subsequent food craving. Eat Behav. 2014;15:99–105.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  45. 45.

    Meule A, Heckel D, Jurowich CF, Vogele C, Kubler A. Correlates of food addiction in obese individuals seeking bariatric surgery. Clin Obes. 2014;4(4):228–36.

    PubMed  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  46. 46.

    Murphy CM, Stojek MK, MacKillop J. Interrelationships among impulsive personality traits, food addiction, and body mass index. Appetite. 2014;73:45–50.

    PubMed  PubMed Central  Article  Google Scholar 

  47. 47.

    Stapleton P, Whitehead M. Dysfunctional eating in an Australian community sample: the role of emotion regulation, impulsivity, and reward and punishment sensitivity. Aust Psychol. 2014;49(6):358–68.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  48. 48.

    Ceccarini M, Manzoni GM, Castelnuovo G, Molinari E. An evaluation of the Italian version of the Yale Food Addiction Scale in obese adult inpatients engaged in a 1-month-weight-loss treatment. J Med Food. 2015;18(11):1281–7.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  49. 49.

    Kakoschke N, Kemps E, Tiggemann M. External eating mediates the relationship between impulsivity and unhealthy food intake. Physiol Behav. 2015;147:117–21.

    PubMed  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  50. 50.

    Meule A, Hermann T, Kubler A. Food addiction in overweight and obese adolescents seeking weight-loss treatment. Eur Eat Disord Rev: J Eat Disord Assoc. 2015;23(3):193–8.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  51. 51.

    Meule A, Platte P. Facets of impulsivity interactively predict body fat and binge eating in young women. Appetite. 2015;87:352–7.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  52. 52.

    Pivarunas B, Conner BT. Impulsivity and emotion dysregulation as predictors of food addiction. Eat Behav. 2015;19:9–14.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  53. 53.

    Raymond KL, Lovell GP. Food addiction symptomology, impulsivity, mood, and body mass index in people with type two diabetes. Appetite. 2015;95:383–9.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  54. 54.

    Ivezaj V, White MA, Grilo CM. Examining binge-eating disorder and food addiction in adults with overweight and obesity. Obesity. 2016;24(10):2064–9.

    PubMed  PubMed Central  Article  Google Scholar 

  55. 55.

    Omar AEM, ElRasheed AH, Azzam HMEE, ElZoheiry AK, ElSerafi DM, ElGhamry RH, et al. Personality profile and affect regulation in relation to food addiction among a sample of Egyptian females. Addict Disord Their Treat. 2016;15(3):143–8.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  56. 56.

    Wolz I, Hilker I, Granero R, Jimenez-Murcia S, Gearhardt AN, Dieguez C, et al. “Food addiction” in patients with eating disorders is associated with negative urgency and difficulties to focus on long-term goals. Front Psychol. 2016;7:61.

    PubMed  PubMed Central  Article  Google Scholar 

  57. 57.

    de Vries SK, Meule A. Food addiction and bulimia nervosa: new data based on the Yale Food Addiction Scale 2.0. Eur Eat Disord Rev: J Eat Disord Assoc. 2016;24(6):518–22.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  58. 58.

    Meule A, Muller A, Gearhardt AN, Blechert J. German version of the Yale Food Addiction Scale 2.0: prevalence and correlates of ‘food addiction’ in students and obese individuals. Appetite. 2017;115:54–61.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  59. 59.

    Meule A, de Zwaan M, Muller A. Attentional and motor impulsivity interactively predict ‘food addiction’ in obese individuals. Compr Psychiatry. 2017;72:83–7.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  60. 60.

    VanderBroek-Stice L, Stojek MK, Beach SR, vanDellen MR, MacKillop J. Multidimensional assessment of impulsivity in relation to obesity and food addiction. Appetite. 2017;112:59–68.

    PubMed  PubMed Central  Article  Google Scholar 

  61. 61.

    Spinella M. Normative data and a short form of the Barratt Impulsiveness Scale. Int J Neurosci. 2007;117(3):359–68.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  62. 62.

    Whiteside SP, Lynam DR. The five factor model and impulsivity: using a structural model of personality to understand impulsivity. Pers Individ Dif. 2001;30(4):669–89.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  63. 63.

    Cyders MA, Smith GT, Spillane NS, Fischer S, Annus AM, Peterson C. Integration of impulsivity and positive mood to predict risky behaviour: development and validation of a measure of positive urgency. Psychol Assess. 2007;19:107–18.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  64. 64.

    Gearhardt AN, Corbin WR, Brownell KD. Development of the Yale Food Addiction Scale version 2.0. Psychol Addict Behav. 2016;30(1):113–21.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  65. 65.

    Innamorati M, Imperatori C, Manzoni GM, Lamis DA, Castelnuovo G, Tamburello A, et al. Psychometric properties of the Italian Yale Food Addiction Scale in overweight and obese patients. Eat Weight Disord. 2015;20(1):119–27.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  66. 66.

    Van Strien T, Frijters JER, Bergers GPA, Defares PB. The Dutch eating behaviour questionnaire for assessment of restrained, emotional and external eating behaviour. Int J Eat Disord. 1986;5:295–315.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  67. 67.

    Stunkard AJ, Messick S. The three-factor eating inventory to measure dietary restraint, disinhibition and hunger. J Psychosom Res. 1985;29:71–83.

    PubMed  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  68. 68.

    Lowe MR, Butryn ML, Didie ER, Annunziato RA, Thomas JG, Crerand CE, et al. The Power of Food Scale. A new measure of the psychological influence of the food environment. Appetite. 2009;53(1):114–8.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  69. 69.

    Fairburn CG, Beglin SJ. Assessment of eating disorders: interview or self-report questionnaire? Int J Eat Disord. 1994;16(4):363–70.

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  70. 70.

    Meule A. Impulsivity and overeating: a closer look at the subscales of the Barratt Impulsiveness Scale. Front Psychol. 2013;4:177.

    PubMed  PubMed Central  Article  Google Scholar 

  71. 71.

    Meule A. Commentary: questionnaire and behavioral task measures of impulsivity are differentially associated with body mass index: a comprehensive meta-analysis. Front Psychol. 2017;8:1222.

    PubMed  PubMed Central  Article  Google Scholar 

  72. 72.

    Loxton NJ, Dawe S. Personality and eating disorders. In: Corr PJ, Matthews G, editors. Cambridge handbook of personality psychology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 2009. p. 687–703.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  73. 73.

    Clark SM, Saules KK. Validation of the Yale Food Addiction Scale among a weight-loss surgery population. Eat Behav. 2013;14(2):216–9.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  74. 74.

    Chen G, Tang Z, Guo G, Liu X, Xiao S. The Chinese version of the Yale Food Addiction Scale: an examination of its validation in a sample of female adolescents. Eat Behav. 2015;18:97–102.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  75. 75.

    Matton A, Goossens L, Braet C, Vervaet M. Punishment and reward sensitivity: are naturally occurring clusters in these traits related to eating and weight problems in adolescents? Eur Eat Disord Rev:J Eat Disord Assoc. 2013;21(3):184–94.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  76. 76.

    Rollins BY, Loken E, Savage JS, Birch LL. Measurement of food reinforcement in preschool children. Associations with food intake, BMI, and reward sensitivity. Appetite. 2013;72C:21–7.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  77. 77.

    Tapper K, Baker L, Jiga-Boy G, Haddock G, Maio GR. Sensitivity to reward and punishment: associations with diet, alcohol consumption, and smoking. Pers Individ Dif. 2015;72:79–84.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  78. 78.

    Li X, Tao Q, Fang Y, Cheng C, Hao Y, Qi J, et al. Reward sensitivity predicts ice cream-related attentional bias assessed by inattentional blindness. Appetite. 2015;89:258–64.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  79. 79.

    De Decker A, Sioen I, Verbeken S, Braet C, Michels N, De Henauw S. Associations of reward sensitivity with food consumption, activity pattern, and BMI in children. Appetite. 2016;100:189–96.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  80. 80.

    Vandeweghe L, Vervoort L, Verbeken S, Moens E, Braet C. Food approach and food avoidance in young children: relation with reward sensitivity and punishment sensitivity. Front Psychol. 2016;07

  81. 81.

    De Decker A, De Clercq B, Verbeken S, Wells JCK, Braet C, Michels N, et al. Fat and lean tissue accretion in relation to reward motivation in children. Appetite. 2017;108:317–25.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  82. 82.

    Matton A, Goossens L, Vervaet M, Braet C. Effortful control as a moderator in the association between punishment and reward sensitivity and eating styles in adolescent boys and girls. Appetite. 2017;111:177–86.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  83. 83.

    Vandeweghe L, Verbeken S, Vervoort L, Moens E, Braet C. Reward sensitivity and body weight: the intervening role of food responsive behavior and external eating. Appetite. 2017;112:150–6.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  84. 84.

    Jackson C. The Jackson-5 Scales of revised Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory (r-RST) and their application to functional and dysfunctional real world outcomes. J Res Pers. 2009;43:556–69.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  85. 85.

    Margetts B, Cade J, Osmond C. Comparison of a food frequnecy questionnaire with a diet record. Int J Epidem. 1989;18:868–73.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  86. 86.

    Sleddens EF, Kremers SP, Thijs C. The Children’s Eating Behaviour Questionnaire: factorial validity and association with body mass index in Dutch children aged 6-7. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2008;5:49.

    PubMed  PubMed Central  Article  Google Scholar 

  87. 87.

    Epstein LH, Wright SM, Paluch RA, Leddy J, Hawk LW Jr, Jaroni JL, et al. Food hedonics and reinforcement as determinants of laboratory food intake in smokers. Physiol Behav. 2004;81(3):511–7.

    PubMed  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  88. 88.

    Blair C. Behavioral inhibition and behavioral activation in young children: relations with self-regulation and adaptation to preschool in children attending Head Start. Dev Psychobiol. 2003;42(3):301–11.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  89. 89.

    Colder CR, O'Connor RM. Gray’s reinforcement sensitivity model and child psychpathology: laboratory and questionnaire assessment of the BAS and BIS. J Abnorm Child Psych. 2004;32:435–51.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  90. 90.

    Kidd C, Loxton NJ. Junk food advertising moderates the indirect effect of reward sensitivity and food consumption via the urge to eat. Physiol Behav. 2018;188:276–282.

  91. 91.

    Krupić D, Corr PJ, Ručević S, Križanić V, Gračanin A. Five reinforcement sensitivity theory (RST) of personality questionnaires: comparison, validity and generalization. Pers Individ Dif. 2016;97:19–24.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  92. 92.

    Heubeck BG, Wilkinson RB, Cologon J. A second look at Carver and White’s (1994) BIS/BAS scales. Pers Individ Dif. 1998;25(4):785–800.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  93. 93.

    Jorm AF, Christensen H, Henderson AS, Jacomb PA, Korten AE, Rodgers B. Using the BIS/BAS scales to measure behavioural inhibition and behavioural activation: factor structure, validity and norms in a large community sample. Pers Individ Dif. 1999;26(1):49–58.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  94. 94.

    Loxton NJ, Dawe S. Alcohol abuse and dysfunctional eating in adolescent girls: the influence of individual differences in sensitivity to reward and punishment. Int J Eat Disord. 2001;29(4):455–62.

    PubMed  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  95. 95.

    Voigt DC, Dillard JP, Braddock KH, Anderson JW, Sopory P, Stephenson MT. BIS/BAS scales and their relationship to risky health behaviours. Pers Individ Dif. 2009;47:89–93.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  96. 96.

    Davis C, Loxton NJ. Addictive behaviours and addiction-prone personality traits: associations with a dopamine multilocus genetic profile. Addict Behav. 2013;38:2306–12.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  97. 97.

    Davis C, Loxton NJ, Levitan RD, Kaplan AS, Carter JC, Kennedy JL. Food addiction’ and its association with a dopaminergic multilocus genetic profile. Physiol Behav. 2013;118:63–9.

    PubMed  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  98. 98.

    Corr PJ, Cooper AJ. The Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory of Personality Questionnaire (RST-PQ): development and validation. Psychol Assess. 2016;28:1427–40.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  99. 99.

    •• Schulte EM, Joyner MA, Schiestl ET, Gearhardt AN. Future directions in “food addiction”: next steps and treatment implications. Curr Addict Rep. 2017;4(2):165–71. Reviews the current state of research in food addiction and the implications for treatment and provides future directions including greater examination of food exposure and cued cravings in addtion to presenting the current literature related to negative affect.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  100. 100.

    Meule A, Kübler A. Food cravings in food addiction: the distinct role of positive reinforcement. Eat Behav. 2012;13(3):252–5.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  101. 101.

    Cappelleri JC, Bushmakin AG, Gerber RA, Leidy NK, Sexton CC, Karlsson J, et al. Evaluating the Power of Food Scale in obese subjects and a general sample of individuals: development and measurement properties. Int J Obes. 2009;33(8):913–22.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  102. 102.

    Schultz W. Predictive reward signals of dopamine neurons. J Neurophysiol. 1998;80:1–27.

    PubMed  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  103. 103.

    Loxton NJ, Byrnes S. Reward sensitivity increases food “wanting” following television “junk food” commercials [abstract]. Appetite. 2012;59, Supp 1(Supp 1):e38.

    Google Scholar 

  104. 104.

    Johnson PM, Kenny PJ. Dopamine D2 receptors in addiction-like reward dysfunction and compulsive eating in obese rats. Nat Neurosci. 2010;13:635–41.

    PubMed  PubMed Central  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  105. 105.

    Stice E, Yokum S, Burger KS, Epstein LH, Small DM. Youth at risk for obesity show greater activation of striatal and somatosensory regions to food. J Neurosci: Off J Soc Neurosci. 2011;31(12):4360–6.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  106. 106.

    •• Stice E, Shaw H. Eating disorders: insights from imaging and behavioral approaches to treatment. J Psychopharm. 2017;31:1485–95. Reviews prospective studies of factors that predict the onset and maintenance of eating disorders with implications for prevention and treatment programs. Reviews research using reward sensitivity and lack of inhibitory control.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  107. 107.

    Burger KS, Stice E. Variability in reward responsivity and obesity: evidence from brain imaging studies. Curr Drug Abuse Rev. 2011;4:182–9.

    PubMed  PubMed Central  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Natalie J. Loxton.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of Interest

The author declares that she has no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.

Additional information

This article is part of the Topical Collection on Food Addiction

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Loxton, N.J. The Role of Reward Sensitivity and Impulsivity in Overeating and Food Addiction. Curr Addict Rep 5, 212–222 (2018).

Download citation


  • Reward
  • Impulsivity
  • Personality
  • Eating
  • Food addiction