The Effects of Emotional Stability, Conscientiousness and Cognitive Ability on Eating Behaviours in Students
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Objectives: Disordered eating behaviours have developed into a more prevalent phenomenon in Western cultures in recent years, so the acknowledgement and understanding of early symptoms are important in order to deal with the implications appropriately. The study aimed to identify whether eating behaviours such as cognitive restraint, uncontrolled eating and emotional eating were influenced by a number of factors including the personality traits, emotional stability (ES) and conscientiousness (C) and cognitive ability. Methods: University students recruited through an online subject pool or social networking site were encouraged to complete both parts of this study, which included an online questionnaire and a set of cognitive tests. The online questionnaire consisted of IPIP personality questionnaire, the Three Factor Eating Questionnaire as well as some personal information regarding age, sex and weight. The two cognitive tests used were Mill Hill vocabulary test and Raven’s advanced progressive matrices. Results: Pearson’s correlations were used to identify correlations between variables and multiple linear regression analyses were used to investigate whether there were significant relationships between the main effects of personality and cognitive ability as well as the interaction between these two factors and eating behaviours. Results found ES to be significantly related to cognitive restraint, uncontrolled and emotional eating, whereas C was only found to be significant with uncontrolled. The main effect of cognitive ability was found to be non-significant as well as the interactions between personality, cognitive ability and each of the three eating behaviours. Conclusions: The findings suggest that individuals with low ES and low C are most at risk of developing unhealthy or disordered eating behaviours, including excessive eating in response to negative emotions, uncontrolled eating and lack of dietary restraint.