International Workshop on Choice Architecture

Suzanne will be attending the International Workshop on Choice Architecture at the University of Cambridge on Wednesday, organised by the Behaviour Change by Design Programme.

Read more about Behaviour Change by Design here



New Paper! ‘Social Modeling of Food Intake: No Evidence for Moderation by Identification With the Norm Referent Group’.

Jinyu Liu and Suzanne Higgs’ new paper:  ‘Social Modeling of Food Intake: No Evidence for Moderation by Identification With the Norm Referent Group‘, is published in Frontiers in Psychology today!

Read the full text here


Normative information has a powerful effect on food intake and food selection. People tend to use the eating behavior of others as a reference for their own eating behaviors and match their intake to an eating partner. This is known as social modeling. There is some evidence to suggest that people are more likely to model a norm when it comes from an in-group than when it comes from an out-group, but whether the strength of identification with a norm referent group moderates modeling of intake has yet to be examined. The current paper presents the results of two studies that investigated whether modeling of intake is moderated by strength of identification with the norm referent group. In Study 1, we recruited 90 female students from the University of Birmingham (UoB) (mean age = 21). Students were allocated to either a low norm condition (presented with a sheet that presented a low cookie intake of previous participants) or a high norm condition (presented with a sheet that presented a high cookie intake of previous participants), or a no norm condition (control group without the sheet containing information about previous participants’ cookie intake). Students also completed a questionnaire on their identification as a Birmingham student and cookie intake was assessed. In Study 2, we recruited 84 students (mean age = 21) who were randomly allocated to one of two conditions (a group presented with a high norm for vegetable intake or no information about a vegetable intake norm). Strong modeling effects were found across both studies but the extent to which the participants identified as a Birmingham University Student did not moderate these effects. The moderating effect of social identity on modeling of eating might be context-dependent.

Visit from Dr Gurpinder Lalli

Next week (Monday 28th January), EBRG welcomes Dr Gurpinder Lalli from the University of Wolverhampton. Gurpinder will be giving EBRG a talk about his research on social eating within schools.

We look forward to hearing all about his research!

Read more about Gurpinder’s research here 

Visit from Samantha Brooks!

Today EBRG is welcoming Dr Samantha Brooks from Liverpool John Moores University. Samantha’s research interests are in neural mechanisms of impulse control in a number of conditions, including eating disorders and addictions.

Samantha will be giving a talk – ‘Learning from the neural correlates of anorexia nervosa about how we might treat addictive behaviour’ –  at the University of Birmingham from 12-13.00 in room G12, 52 Pritchatt’s Road. All are welcome.

To find out more about Samantha’s research, visit

New PhD Student! Welcome, Madhronica!

EBRG welcomes Madhronica Sardjoe, who is starting her PhD today! She completed an internship here with us during her masters, and will be completing her PhD at both Maastricht University, and here in Birmingham!

Her PhD project will be investigating: Effects of exercise on cognition and appetite: what are the mediating mechanisms?


New Paper! Top-down guidance of attention to food cues is enhanced in individuals with overweight/obesity and predicts change in weight at one-year follow up. Kaisari et al (2018)

EBRG members have a new paper in the International Journal of Obesity: Top-down guidance of attention to food cues is enhanced in individuals with overweight/obesity and predicts change in weight at one-year follow up.

Kaisari P., Kumar S., Hattersley J., Dourish C.T., Rotshtein P. Higgs S.

Read it here :



Changing eating behaviour may be challenging for individuals with obesity and this may be related to attentional bias towards food. Previous paradigms used to assess attentional bias to food stimuli have not distinguished between bottom-up processes related to assessment of rewarding stimuli versus top-down processes related to effects of mind-set on attention. We investigated whether attentional bias for food cues varies between individuals with overweight/obesity and healthy weight individuals, due to differential top-down control of attention. We also determined whether top-down biases predict food consumption in the lab and weight change in our sample over one-year.


Forty-three participants with overweight/obesity and 49 healthy weight participants between the ages of 18 and 58 participated. Participants completed two attention tasks in a counterbalanced order: (i) a priming task assessing bottom-up control of attention and (ii) a working memory task assessing top-down control of attention. Eating behaviour was assessed by a taste test. At one-year follow-up participants returned to the laboratory to assess changes in their body mass index (BMI).


The healthy weight and overweight/obese groups did not differ in demographics and baseline measures (appetite, food liking, taste test food intake). Participants with overweight/obesity showed greater top-down attentional bias towards food cues than did healthy weight participants but had no difference in bottom-up attentional bias. Top down attentional bias towards food cues predicted weight change over one-year but did not predict food intake in the taste test.


The present findings illustrate that the relationship between attentional bias for food, food intake, and body weight is complex. Top-down effects of mind-set on attention, rather than bottom-up control of attention to food may contribute to patterns of eating that result in development and/or maintenance of overweight/obesity. Interventions targeted at top down biases could be effective in facilitating prevention of weight gain.

ESRC Festival of Social Science 2018

Last week, EBRG hosted an event for the ESRC Festival of Social Science 2018.

The event included talks from Suzanne Higgs, Helen Ruddock and Maartje Spetter and hands-on demos of estimating portion size and guessing the sugar content of food.

We had a great time talking to everyone about our research – so thank you to everyone who came, and thank you to Helen who organised the event!




Mind Over Matter: Neurobiological Advances in Clinical Management of Eating Disordered Brain

On the 2nd November, Suzanne will give a talk at the The Faculty of Eating Disorders Psychiatry Annual Conference 2018 – Mind Over Matter: Neurobiological Advances in Clinical Management of Eating Disordered Brain.

The topic of her talk will be Neurobiology of Learning, Memory and Attention in Eating Behaviour and its Clinical Correlations.

The event is hosted by the Royal College of Psychiatrists.