Ignoring Cues for Alcohol and Fast Food is Hard -- But is it Out of Our Control?

Posted on July 9, 2019

Previous studies have proven that it is challenging for us to ignore cues associated with rewards such as drinking and consuming junk food, but it is not known whether this phenomenon is within our control. A recent study has shown that while we are able to consciously resist our temptations, we are less able to do so when we are stressed, tired or when our minds are occupied with other matters.

The study was conducted by researchers from UNSW Sydney. Participants were given tasks that required them to control their attention under conditions of high and low cognitive demands to influence their ability to control attentional resources.

For us to fight distractions and temptations, we use our executive control, which refers to cognitive processes that enable us to concentrate, manage our thought processes and control our emotions. However, when we are required to focus on several things at once, it gets harder to ignore temptations. The study’s results indicated that to fully control the desire to seek rewards or satisfaction, we need to have completely control over our cognitive processes.

The findings also suggest reasons for why individuals tend to be less successful in changing certain habits like drinking or sticking to a diet when they are stressed. Stress and fatigue places more pressure on our executive control system, affecting our ability to deal with temptations by distracting us from stopping ourselves from giving into the urges.

Given this new information, researchers are now interested in developing methods to improve executive control. If successful, this could serve to be particularly useful for combating addictions in clinical settings.


Source material from Science Daily

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