Food craving has been shown to induce states of psychological challenge, indexed by increases in adrenaline but not cortisol production. The study aimed to test the relationship between challenge and (1) desire thinking (the active processing of the pleasant consequences of achieving a desired target and planning how to do so) and (2) craving.
Participants (N = 61) self-reported their levels of craving and desire thinking. They were then presented with situations in which their craving would be fulfilled or not via a false feedback practice task (a wordsearch task). During this period psycho-physiological measures of challenge and threat were taken.
Higher levels of craving were linked to challenge only when the craved object was likely to be obtained. Whilst anticipating reward fulfillment, higher levels of craving were linked to higher levels of desire thinking. In turn, higher levels of desire thinking were related to lower levels of challenge. In contrast, during the processes of reward fulfillment, desire thinking was linked to increased challenge (i.e., a positive indirect effect).