Factors influencing the reinforcing value of fruit and unhealthy snacks uri icon


  • Conclusions Results point to the importance of simultaneously increasing barriers to obtain unhealthy food and promoting access to healthy food in order to facilitate healthy food choices.
  • Methods In a computerized Food Reinforcement Task, adolescents could earn portions of a healthy and an unhealthy snack following an identical progressive reinforcement schedule for both food types. Reinforcing value of food was indexed by the number of button presses for each food type. Participants were allocated randomly to two-order condition: fruit-snack versus snack-fruit. Reward sensitivity was assessed with the Dutch age-downward version of Carver and White's BIS/BAS scale.
  • Objective The present study investigated the reinforcing value of healthy and unhealthy snack food in adolescents (n = 108, aged 14-16 years). Moderation by access to different foods, sex and the personality trait reward sensitivity is tested.
  • Results Results showed that the reinforcing value of an unhealthy snack is higher than that of fruit, with participants making more button presses for unhealthy snacks, M = 1280.40, SD = 1203.53, than for fruit, M = 488.04, SD = 401.45, F(1,48) = 25.37, p < 0.001. This effect is stronger in boys (beta = -1367.67) than in girls (beta = -548.61). The effect is only present in the snack-fruit condition, not in the fruit-snack condition, indicating that access to food moderates the effect of food type. There is no evidence for moderation by reward sensitivity.

publication date

  • 2017
  • 2017
  • 2017