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Thesis Milèna LEGER


From 1 October 2022 to 30 September 2025

The role of metacognition in eating behaviour

Unhealthy lifestyles are major factors contributing to chronic conditions that impose a huge financial burden in EU healthcare systems. Poor diet is a significant risk factor for cancers, cardiovascular, chest, metabolic disorders and is a leading cause of morbidity and premature mortality. Unfortunately, communication of Public Health has failed to influence consumers to change their habits. This could be explained by the fact that there is a lack of awareness of the contextual features influencing eating behaviour and even where there is motivation to change, people have difficulty translating good intentions into healthy behaviours. In this project we will focus on the obesity ‘epidemic’.
Our proposal is that advances in the field of metacognition could bring to bear on complex changes in eating behaviours. Metacognition has been defined as ‘thinking about thinking’ and broadly speaking it refers to a system of conscious awareness which regulates our behaviours according to the current state of the organism and its intended goals. It has been studied using a variety of methods ranging from the social sciences to the neurosciences, and it is of use both in tackling applied issues and the exploration of conscious awareness. In eating behaviours, a metacognitive approach will reveal scientifically for the first time whether people are consciously able to access the nature and quantity of what they are eating. In short, we ask first whether a metacognitive failure might be the cause of over-eating (or eating the wrong thing). Second, we will explore what the metacognitive approach might be able to contribute to healthier eating. Our unique hypothesis is that complex decisions about what and when and how much to eat can be better understood by adopting a metacognitive viewpoint; something which has not yet been considered in human nutrition.
In a new collaboration on the Grenoble UGA site drawing on resources in the SFR Nutrition, we will use a funded PhD student to explore metacognition and eating behaviours in 3 pre- registered well-well-powered experiments and one naturalistic, on-line diary study. This project will be the launching point of larger scale multi-site and multidisciplinary projects. In the supervised PhD thesis, we will draw on multi-method approaches to measure eating behaviours and the awareness of them, from a psychological, neuroscientific and - thanks to input from the UFR nutrition - biological systems viewpoint.
In sum, if people are detached from or unaware of what they are eating, it will lead to dysfunctional eating. This would explain also why self-report measures of eating are so poor at predicting behaviour-change and real-world behaviours: people simply aren’t aware of their food choices and behaviours. Implementing a metacognitive approach allows the study of - and perhaps the elimination of - so-called ‘mindless eating'.

Supervisors :
- Christopher MOULIN - (christopher[dot]moulin[at]univ-grenoble-alpes[dot]fr)
- Eve DUPIERRIX - (eve[dot]dupierrix[at]univ-grenoble-alpes[dot]fr) -
- Christophe MOINARD - (christophe[dot]moinard[at]univ-grenoble-alpes[dot]fr)

Keywords : metacognition,obesity,eating behaviours,


From 1 October 2022 to 30 September 2025



Submitted on 17 November 2023

Updated on 17 November 2023