Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Psychological and Brain Sciences

Committee Chair

Salmon, Paul Gregory, 1948-

Author's Keywords

Mindfulness; Eating behaviors; Dispositional mindfulness; Awareness


Eating disorders--Psychological aspects; Eating disorders in women; Mindfulness


This dissertation theorized that higher levels of dispositional mindfulness (DM), the innate tendency to be aware and accepting of the present moment, is associated with fewer maladaptive eating behaviors, particularly in response to stress and negative emotions. Previous research has established that DM is predictive of decreased stress perception and more skillful emotion regulation. However, few studies have explored how this quality might relate to eating behaviors, which can be influenced by psychological stress and negative affect. A sample of non-clinical female undergraduates (N = 158) completed self-report questionnaires assessing DM, perceived stress, emotional regulation skills, and problematic eating patterns. Participants were also randomized to complete either solvable anagrams (low stress condition) or unsolvable anagrams (high stress condition). Four snack foods, varying in fat content (high/low) and flavor (sweet/salty), were offered for participants to consume during the stress induction, in order to examine food selection and intake. Participants also provided estimates of the amount of each food consumed, to determine whether DM was associated with greater accuracy regarding the amount of food eaten. Bivariate correlations supported the association between DM and more adaptive stress management and emotion regulation. In addition, there were significant negative correlations between DM and several maladaptive eating behaviors, including: emotional eating, external eating, and uncontrolled eating. DM was significantly positively correlated with a measure of mindful eating. Participants were classified into three groups (low, average, and high DM). ANOVA analyses revealed that individuals with higher DM scores reported significantly less stress and negative affect in response to the stress manipulation. However, DM did not influence the amount or type of food consumed or the accuracy of estimated intake. This study reaffirms the strong relationship between mindfulness and reduced reactivity to stress. Although hypotheses regarding in vivo eating behaviors were not supported, self-report data suggests an inverse relationship between DM and several negative eating tendencies. Limitations of this study included use of an undergraduate sample and the somewhat high level of suspicion reported regarding the presence of food during the experiment. This study supports the possible utility of using mindfulness-enhancing interventions to cultivate more healthy eating patterns.