Psychological Issues (M Hetherington, Section Editor)

Current Obesity Reports

, Volume 1, Issue 2, pp 114-121

First online:

Elaborated Intrusion Theory: A Cognitive-Emotional Theory of Food Craving

  • Jon MayAffiliated withSchool of Psychology, University of Plymouth Email author 
  • , Jackie AndradeAffiliated withSchool of Psychology, University of Plymouth
  • , David J. KavanaghAffiliated withInstitute of Health & Biomedical Innovation and School of Psychology & Counselling, Queensland University of Technology
  • , Marion HetheringtonAffiliated withInstitute of Psychological Sciences, University of Leeds


A clear understanding of the cognitive-emotional processes underpinning desires to overconsume foods and adopt sedentary lifestyles can inform the development of more effective interventions to promote healthy eating and physical activity. The Elaborated Intrusion Theory of Desires offers a framework that can help in this endeavor through its emphases on the roles of intrusive thoughts and elaboration of multisensory imagery. There is now substantial evidence that tasks that compete for limited working memory resources with food-related imagery can reduce desires to eat that food, and that positive imagery can promote functional behavior. Meditation mindfulness can also short-circuit elaboration of dysfunctional cognition. Functional Decision Making is an approach that applies laboratory-based research on desire, to provide a motivational intervention to establish and entrench behavior changes, so healthy eating and physical activity become everyday habits.


Food cravings Elaborated intrusion Appetite Sensory imagery Affect regulation Acceptance-based interventions Functional decision making Behavior change