This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Comparing and Intervening on Preference for and Reinforcing Value of Edibles Across Adolescents and Young Adults




Edgemon, Anna Kate

Type of Degree

Master's Thesis


Psychological Sciences

Restriction Status


Restriction Type


Date Available



Obesity has been identified as an epidemic by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention since 1999. This epidemic is of concern because obesity is correlated with adverse health outcomes such as hypertension, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and cancer. Research on determinants of this epidemic indicate (a) childhood obesity sets a trajectory for obesity in adulthood and (b) changes in caloric quantity in the food supply may have given rise to this epidemic. Moreover, this epidemic may occur at higher rates for populations who are of low socioeconomic status, have limited access to nutrient-dense foods, or both. One such population that may be uniquely impacted by this epidemic is justice-involved youth. The proposed series of studies seeks to build upon previous research on food reinforcement and behavioral demand by: (a) comparing demand for edibles across two groups and (b) evaluating the effect of a nutrition intervention on demand among justice-involved adolescents. In Study 1, participants in two groups completed preference assessments for high- and low-energy density edibles and corresponding hypothetical purchasing tasks. Behavioral demand was compared between- and within-groups. In Study 2, a sample of justice-involved adolescents received instruction related to nutrition. Following intervention, participants completed preference assessments and hypothetical purchasing tasks again. Findings from Study 1 indicated (a) between-group differences in behavioral demand and (b) within-group differences in demand for high- versus low-energy density edibles. Findings from Study 2 indicate nutrition intervention may have a limited effect on behavioral demand. Implications for future research are discussed.