Acceptance- and imagery-based strategies can reduce chocolate cravings: A test of the elaborated-intrusion theory of desire

Sophie Schumacher, Eva Kemps, Marika Tiggemann

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    22 Citations (Scopus)


    The elaborated-intrusion theory of desire proposes that craving is a two-stage process whereby initial intrusions about a desired target are subsequently elaborated with mental imagery. The present study tested whether the craving reduction strategies of cognitive defusion and guided imagery could differentially target the intrusion and elaboration stages, respectively, and thus differentially impact the craving process. Participants were randomly assigned to a cognitive defusion, a guided imagery or a mind-wandering control condition. Pre- and post-intervention chocolate-related thoughts, intrusiveness of thoughts, vividness of imagery, craving intensity, and chocolate consumption were compared. Experiment 1 recruited a general sample of young women (n = 94), whereas Experiment 2 recruited a sample of chocolate cravers who wanted to reduce their chocolate consumption (n = 97). Across both experiments, cognitive defusion lowered intrusiveness of thoughts, vividness of imagery and craving intensity. Guided imagery reduced chocolate-related thoughts, intrusiveness, vividness and craving intensity for chocolate cravers (Experiment 2), but not for the general sample (Experiment 1). There were no group differences in chocolate consumption in either experiment. Results add to existing evidence supporting the elaborated-intrusion theory of desire in the food domain, and suggest that acceptance- and imagery-based techniques have potential for use in combatting problematic cravings.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)63-70
    Number of pages8
    Early online date2017
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2017

    Bibliographical note

    Funding Information:
    We thank David Hall and Paul Douglas for technical assistance with audio-recording the intervention scripts. This research was supported by funding from Flinders University.

    Publisher Copyright:
    © 2017 Elsevier Ltd

    Copyright 2017 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


    • Chocolate
    • Cognitive defusion
    • Craving
    • Elaborated-intrusion theory of desire
    • Guided imagery


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