Food psychology is the psychological study of how people choose the food they eat (food choice), along with food and eating behaviors.[1] Food psychology is an applied psychology, using existing psychological methods and findings to understand food choice and eating behaviors.[2] Factors studied by food psychology include food cravings, sensory experiences of food, perceptions of food security and food safety, price, available product information such as nutrition labeling and the purchasing environment (which may be physical or online). Food psychology also encompasses broader sociocultural factors such as cultural perspectives on food,[3] public awareness of "what constitutes a sustainable diet",[4] and food marketing including "food fraud" where ingredients are intentionally motivated for economic gain as opposed to nutritional value.[5][6] These factors are considered to interact with each other along with an individual's history of food choices to form new food choices and eating behaviors.[5]

The development of food choice is considered to fall into three main categories: properties of the food, individual differences and sociocultural influences.[1][7] Food psychology studies psychological aspects of individual differences, although due to the interaction between factors and the variance in definitions, food psychology is often studied alongside other aspects of food choice including nutrition psychology.[7]

As of 2022, there are no specific journals for food psychology, with research being published in both nutrition and psychology journals.[4][8]

Eating behaviors which are analysed by food psychology include disordered eating, behavior associated with food neophobia, and the public broadcasting/streaming of eating (mukbang).[9][10][11] Food psychology has been studied extensively using theories of cognitive dissonance and fallacious reasoning.[9][12]


Food psychology has been used to examine how eating behaviors have been globally affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Changed food preferences due to COVID-19 have been found, with both beneficial and harmful effects on food choice.[13][14] Studies in Spain and Saudi Arabia found a reduced consumption of processed foods and junk food, and higher rates of sustainable diets,[15][13] whereas UK residents and US university students were found to have less influence in household food choice, increased snacking behaviors and generally increased consumption of junk food.[14][16] 48% of residents in a UK study reported increased food intake, especially for high energy foods, and a similar percentage reported increased food cravings.[17] Increased food stockpiling and reduced effects of familiarity on food choice were also observed.[13][16]

While some participants appear to have thrived in this context, with healthier lifestyles and decision-making, others gained weight, lacked varied diets and struggled with food expense. [16]

A 2020 review found the largest effects of COVID-19 in food choice to be from lockdowns, income loss leading to reduced food security, and bereavement due to COVID-19.[18] For example, one study in Iran found 61% of the sample population experiencing food insecurity which resulted from both economic and psychological effects.[19]

An individual's need for closure, a psychological measure of desire for certainty, was found to predict food stockpiling and wasting of food.[20] A study in Chile found higher anxiety as a predictor for fast food and pastry intake, suggesting that emotional eating has been amplified due to COVID-19.[21] By comparison, a UK study found lower levels of food craving control to be the most accurate predictor of increased high energy sweet and savoury food intake, along with emotional overeating, emotional undereating, experienced satiety and enjoyment of food being found as poor predictors.[17]

The tendency to stockpile or hoard food has also been explained using the theory of planned behavior, using data collected from Vietnam that has suggested high risk perception is correlated with food stockpiling and panic buying.[22] The perception of lacking food was found higher scoring in US women than US men, and higher in Indian men compared to Indian women, suggesting that country of residence may be a moderator to how gender affects need for closure in food, based on household roles.[20]


Italy has received particular academic attention during the COVID-19 pandemic for studies of food choice as the country was one of the most severely affected by COVID-19. One study found survey results that "Around 40% of the [Italian] population perceive that strengthening the immune defences through nutrition is not important to reduce the risk of coronavirus disease".[23] Survey results suggest that cooking behaviors were increased and junk food consumption was reduced,[24] along with raised public interest in sustainability issues including sustainable food products.[25]

Ethnocentrism has been proposed as an explanation for the large change in food choice and eating behaviors of Italians during COVID-19.[26]

See also


  1. ^ a b Shepherd, R.; Raats, M., eds. (2006). The psychology of food choice. doi:10.1079/9780851990323.0000. ISBN 9780851990323.
  2. ^ Carfora, Valentina; Cicia, Gianni; Conner, Mark (2021-09-20). "Editorial: Mind the Sustainable Food: New Insights in Food Psychology". Frontiers in Psychology. 12: 725579. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2021.725579. ISSN 1664-1078. PMC 8488082. PMID 34616341.
  3. ^ de Ridder, Denise; Gillebaart, Marleen (August 2022). "How food overconsumption has hijacked our notions about eating as a pleasurable activity". Current Opinion in Psychology. 46: 101324. doi:10.1016/j.copsyc.2022.101324. ISSN 2352-250X. PMID 35339981.
  4. ^ a b Carfora, Valentina; Cicia, Gianni; Conner, Mark (2021-09-20). "Editorial: Mind the Sustainable Food: New Insights in Food Psychology". Frontiers in Psychology. 12: 725579. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2021.725579. ISSN 1664-1078. PMC 8488082. PMID 34616341.
  5. ^ a b Tsai, Fu-Sheng; Wen, Xiao-Wei; Srivastava, Shalini (2021-11-18). "Editorial: The Psychology of Food Safety and Consumption". Frontiers in Psychology. 12: 767212. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2021.767212. ISSN 1664-1078. PMC 8638618. PMID 34867669.
  6. ^ Mills, S. D. H.; Tanner, L. M.; Adams, J. (2013-01-09). "Systematic literature review of the effects of food and drink advertising on food and drink-related behaviour, attitudes and beliefs in adult populations". Obesity Reviews. 14 (4): 303–314. doi:10.1111/obr.12012. ISSN 1467-7881. PMID 23297736. S2CID 24310212.
  7. ^ a b Chen, Pin-Jane; Antonelli, Marta (2020-12-18). "Conceptual Models of Food Choice: Influential Factors Related to Foods, Individual Differences, and Society". Foods. 9 (12): 1898. doi:10.3390/foods9121898. ISSN 2304-8158. PMC 7766596. PMID 33353240.
  8. ^ van den Heuvel, Emmy; Newbury, Annie; Appleton, Katherine (2019-01-12). "The Psychology of Nutrition with Advancing Age: Focus on Food Neophobia". Nutrients. 11 (1): 151. doi:10.3390/nu11010151. ISSN 2072-6643. PMC 6356997. PMID 30642027.
  9. ^ a b Ong, Andy Swee-Jin; Frewer, Lynn; Chan, Mei-Yen (2015-05-15). "Cognitive dissonance in food and nutrition–A review". Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. 57 (11): 2330–2342. doi:10.1080/10408398.2015.1013622. ISSN 1040-8398. PMID 25976736. S2CID 4138376.
  10. ^ van den Heuvel, Emmy; Newbury, Annie; Appleton, Katherine (2019-01-12). "The Psychology of Nutrition with Advancing Age: Focus on Food Neophobia". Nutrients. 11 (1): 151. doi:10.3390/nu11010151. ISSN 2072-6643. PMC 6356997. PMID 30642027.
  11. ^ Kircaburun, Kagan; Harris, Andrew; Calado, Filipa; Griffiths, Mark D. (2020-01-06). "The Psychology of Mukbang Watching: A Scoping Review of the Academic and Non-academic Literature". International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction. 19 (4): 1190–1213. doi:10.1007/s11469-019-00211-0. ISSN 1557-1874. S2CID 209893148.
  12. ^ Köster, Egon Peter (July 2003). "The psychology of food choice: some often encountered fallacies". Food Quality and Preference. 14 (5–6): 359–373. doi:10.1016/s0950-3293(03)00017-x. ISSN 0950-3293.
  13. ^ a b c Hesham, Fazel; Riadh, Harizi; Sihem, Nasr Khouadja (2021-04-13). "What Have We Learned about the Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Consumer Behavior?". Sustainability. 13 (8): 4304. doi:10.3390/su13084304. ISSN 2071-1050.
  14. ^ a b Powell, Patricia K.; Lawler, Sheleigh; Durham, Jo; Cullerton, Katherine (June 2021). "The food choices of US university students during COVID-19". Appetite. 161: 105130. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2021.105130. ISSN 0195-6663. PMC 9756128. PMID 33484787. S2CID 231667509.
  15. ^ Álvarez-Gómez, Carmen; De La Higuera, Magdalena; Rivas-García, Lorenzo; Diaz-Castro, Javier; Moreno-Fernandez, Jorge; Lopez-Frias, Magdalena (2021-10-14). "Has COVID-19 Changed the Lifestyle and Dietary Habits in the Spanish Population after Confinement?". Foods. 10 (10): 2443. doi:10.3390/foods10102443. ISSN 2304-8158. PMC 8535706. PMID 34681491.
  16. ^ a b c Snuggs, Sarah; McGregor, Sophie (April 2021). "Food & meal decision making in lockdown: How and who has Covid-19 affected?". Food Quality and Preference. 89: 104145. doi:10.1016/j.foodqual.2020.104145. ISSN 0950-3293. PMC 7685931. PMID 33250586.
  17. ^ a b Buckland, Nicola J.; Swinnerton, Lucy F.; Ng, Kwok; Price, Menna; Wilkinson, Laura L.; Myers, Anna; Dalton, Michelle (March 2021). "Susceptibility to increased high energy dense sweet and savoury food intake in response to the COVID-19 lockdown: The role of craving control and acceptance coping strategies". Appetite. 158: 105017. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2020.105017. ISSN 0195-6663. PMC 8580210. PMID 33161044.
  18. ^ Béné, Christophe (2020-07-11). "Resilience of local food systems and links to food security – A review of some important concepts in the context of COVID-19 and other shocks". Food Security. 12 (4): 805–822. doi:10.1007/s12571-020-01076-1. ISSN 1876-4517. PMC 7351643. PMID 32837646.
  19. ^ Pakravan-Charvadeh, Mohammad Reza; Savari, Moselm; Khan, Haider A; Gholamrezai, Saeid; Flora, Cornelia (2021-03-15). "Determinants of household vulnerability to food insecurity during COVID-19 lockdown in a mid-term period in Iran – ERRATUM". Public Health Nutrition. 24 (7): 1972. doi:10.1017/s1368980021000872. ISSN 1368-9800. PMC 8094438. PMID 33715666. S2CID 232230530.
  20. ^ a b Brizi, Ambra; Biraglia, Alessandro (January 2021). ""Do I have enough food?" How need for cognitive closure and gender impact stockpiling and food waste during the COVID-19 pandemic: A cross-national study in India and the United States of America". Personality and Individual Differences. 168: 110396. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2020.110396. ISSN 0191-8869. PMC 7501171. PMID 32982000.
  21. ^ Landaeta-Díaz, Leslie; González-Medina, Gabriel; Agüero, Samuel Durán (September 2021). "Anxiety, anhedonia and food consumption during the COVID-19 quarantine in Chile". Appetite. 164: 105259. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2021.105259. ISSN 0195-6663. PMC 8050603. PMID 33857546.
  22. ^ Khoi, Bui Huy; Long, Nguyen Ngoc (2020-04-24). "An Empirical Study about the Intention to Hoard Food during COVID-19 Pandemic". Eurasia Journal of Mathematics, Science and Technology Education. 16 (7): em1857. doi:10.29333/ejmste/8207. ISSN 1305-8223. S2CID 219038977.
  23. ^ Savarese, Mariarosaria; Castellini, Greta; Morelli, Lorenzo; Graffigna, Guendalina (February 2021). "COVID-19 disease and nutritional choices: How will the pandemic reconfigure our food psychology and habits? A case study of the Italian population". Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases. 31 (2): 399–402. doi:10.1016/j.numecd.2020.10.013. ISSN 0939-4753. PMC 7577214. PMID 33358715.
  24. ^ Caso, Daniela; Guidetti, Margherita; Capasso, Miriam; Cavazza, Nicoletta (January 2022). "Finally, the chance to eat healthily: Longitudinal study about food consumption during and after the first COVID-19 lockdown in Italy". Food Quality and Preference. 95: 104275. doi:10.1016/j.foodqual.2021.104275. ISSN 0950-3293. PMC 8443069. PMID 34539093.
  25. ^ Castellini, Greta; Savarese, Mariarosaria; Graffigna, Guendalina (2021-03-09). "The Impact of COVID-19 Outbreak in Italy on the Sustainable Food Consumption Intention From a "One Health" Perspective". Frontiers in Nutrition. 8: 622122. doi:10.3389/fnut.2021.622122. ISSN 2296-861X. PMC 8006295. PMID 33791331.
  26. ^ Migliore, Giuseppina; Rizzo, Giuseppina; Schifani, Giorgio; Quatrosi, Giuseppe; Vetri, Luigi; Testa, Riccardo (2021-10-22). "Ethnocentrism Effects on Consumers' Behavior during COVID-19 Pandemic". Economies. 9 (4): 160. doi:10.3390/economies9040160. hdl:10447/556557. ISSN 2227-7099.