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Open Access Research

The better the story, the bigger the serving: narrative transportation increases snacking during screen time in a randomized trial

Elizabeth J Lyons14*, Deborah F Tate2 and Dianne S Ward3

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Nutrition, Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, USA

2 Department of Health Behavior, Department of Nutrition, Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, USA

3 Department of Nutrition, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, USA

4 The University of Texas Medical Branch, 301 University Blvd, Galveston, TX 77555-0342, USA

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International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2013, 10:60  doi:10.1186/1479-5868-10-60

Published: 16 May 2013

Abstract

Background

Watching television and playing video games increase energy intake, likely due to distraction from satiety cues. A study comparing one hour of watching TV, playing typical video games, or playing motion-controlled video games found a difference across groups in energy intake, but the reasons for this difference are not clear. As a secondary analysis, we investigated several types of distraction to determine potential psychosocial mechanisms which may account for greater energy intake observed during sedentary screen time as compared to motion-controlled video gaming.

Methods

Feelings of enjoyment, engagement (mental immersion), spatial presence (the feeling of being in the game), and transportation (immersion in a narrative) were investigated in 120 young adults aged 18 – 35 (60 female).

Results

Only narrative transportation was associated with total caloric intake (ρ = .205, P = .025). Transportation was also higher in the TV group than in the gaming groups (P = .002) and higher in males than in females (P = .003). Transportation mediated the relationship between motion-controlled gaming (as compared to TV watching) and square root transformed energy intake (indirect effect = −1.34, 95% confidence interval −3.57, −0.13). No other distraction-related variables were associated with intake.

Conclusions

These results suggest that different forms of distraction may differentially affect eating behavior during screen time, and that narrative appears to be a particularly strong distractor. Future studies should further investigate the effects of narrative on eating behavior.