Link to the University of Pittsburgh Homepage
Link to the University Library System Homepage Link to the Contact Us Form

Cognitive Interference in Response to Weight Loss Stimuli in Individuals Participating in a Structured Weight Loss Program

Bhargava, Tina D. (2012) Cognitive Interference in Response to Weight Loss Stimuli in Individuals Participating in a Structured Weight Loss Program. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

Primary Text

Download (1MB) | Preview


Although a central concern of public health is the self-management of chronic diseases, the cognitive demands required by behavior change are seldom explored. The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of cognitive limitations—with a focus on cognitive interference (i.e. “off task” thoughts)—on weight loss efforts through both an experimental and a qualitative approach. Individuals currently enrolled in a structured weight loss program completed positive and negative weight-loss related Stroop tasks to measure cognitive interference levels. Response times were compared between and within participants who were engaged (N=25) vs. unengaged (N=15) and successful (N=16) vs. unsuccessful (N=24) with the weight loss program. Successful participants had significantly faster response times (p=.01) on the positive Stroop compared to the negative Stroop (716.6 ± 98.1, 761.3 ± 106.4), as did the engaged participants (p=.02; 725.1 ± 96.7, 759.9 ± 111.7). No statistically significant differences were found between successful & unsuccessful or engaged & unengaged groups, however the experimental findings suggest that cognitive interference in response to weight-loss related cues may be related to success with and engagement in a weight loss program. A qualitative exploration of interview responses identified themes related to cognitive processes and interference and supported the supposition that unhealthy behaviors are often automatic, and changing them can have high cognitive demands. However, participant responses also indicated that healthy behaviors can be automatized with practice. In addition, the external factors that participants identified as influencing their health behavior choices indicate that a social and built environment that supports healthier decisions would make the health behavior changes less cognitively demanding. The public health significance of these findings is that they indicate that both cognitive limitations and environmental influences should be taken into account when examining the need for health behavior change and designing interventions to address this need. Further research into how cognitive factors affect lifestyle decision-making may contribute to a deeper understanding of how to promote self-care behaviors that lead to better health outcomes.


Social Networking:
Share |


Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Bhargava, Tina D.tdb11@pitt.eduTDB11
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairTrauth, Jeanette M.trauth@pitt.eduTRAUTH
Committee MemberAlbert, Stevensmalbert@pitt.eduSMALBERT
Committee MemberKeane, Christophercrkcity@pitt.eduCRKCITY
Committee MemberZgibor, Janice C.edcjan@pitt.eduEDCJAN
Date: 20 September 2012
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 10 August 2012
Approval Date: 20 September 2012
Submission Date: 23 July 2012
Access Restriction: 5 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 5 years.
Number of Pages: 104
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Public Health > Behavioral and Community Health Sciences
Degree: DrPH - Doctor of Public Health
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: cognitive interference, obesity, attentional resources, weight loss, Stroop, qualitative
Date Deposited: 20 Sep 2012 20:28
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 14:00


Monthly Views for the past 3 years

Plum Analytics

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item