Effects of cueing multiple memories of eating on people’s judgments about their diet

Chris Delivett, Jason Michael Thomas, Claire Farrow, Robert A. Nash*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Past research shows that recalling a single positive health-related experience, such as exercising, can encourage people’s subsequent healthy behaviours. In contrast, we reasoned that attempting to recall many healthy experiences might elicit a metacognitive experience of difficulty that would lead people to perceive themselves as less healthy, and perhaps to make other health-related judgments based on this perception. In two pre-registered experiments (combined N = 729), participants recalled either “few” or “many” instances of eating either healthily or unhealthily, before rating the healthiness of their diets and completing measures of their eating preferences and choices. Contrary to our predictions, our pre-registered analyses provided minimal evidence that the number of memories people retrieved affected their judgments. However, exploratory mediation analyses suggested that two counteracting effects may have occurred, whereby retrieving more (un)healthy memories led people to identify as more (un)healthy, yet also created a sense of subjective difficulty that partially or wholly negated these effects. These findings suggest that whereas probing people’s dietary memories might sometimes lead to healthier self-perceptions and dietary choices, we should also consider the possibility of backfire effects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1269-1281
Number of pages13
Issue number10
Early online date20 Sept 2023
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2023 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. The terms on which this article has been published allow the posting of the Accepted Manuscript in a repository by the author(s) or with their consent.


  • Eating behaviour
  • dietary health
  • ease-of-retrieval
  • memory retrieval


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