Objective: This study investigated the effect of exposure to television food advertising on accessibility of food-related cognitions and motivation to eat.Design and main outcome measures: We initially developed a word stem completion task to measure accessibility of food-related cognitions. In two subsequent experiments, 160 female undergraduate students (Experiment 1) and 124 overweight or obese community-dwelling women (Experiment 2) viewed a series of television commercials advertising either food or non-food products. They then completed the word stem task and also rated their desire to eat.Results: Exposure to televised food advertisements led to the completion of word stems with more food- and eating-related words in both experiments. It also increased self-reported desire to eat, but only for overweight and obese individuals (Experiment 2). In both samples, there was a positive association between accessibility of food-related cognitions and reported desire to eat, following priming with television food advertisements.Conclusion: We conclude that an increased activation of food-related cognitions may provide a mechanism for the link between food advertising and consumption. This has implications for tackling pathological (over)eating.