The Relationship between Students’ Conscientiousness Level and their Healthy Eating Behavior Youngki Hong1 Department of Psychology, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota Past research suggested links between people’s healthy eating behavior and personality traits, especially the trait of conscientiousness. However, research has been limited to people living in different environments, which made it hard to explain individual differences in eating behaviors of people who reside in the same environment. By using a sample of students who attend the same university, we attempted to address individual differences in students’ healthy eating behaviors and attitudes in terms of differences in their conscientiousness levels. Participants completed a shortened version of Big Five Inventory (BFI) and a Healthy Eating Behavior and Attitude scale. We found a significant and positive correlation between conscientiousness level scores and scores on the Healthy Eating Behavior and Attitude scale. Our finding suggested that people with high conscientiousness level tended to have healthier eating behaviors and attitudes than people with low conscientiousness level, regardless of the environment in which they reside. Pages: 8-11

The United States has been widely known as the world’s most obese country with obesity being a leading cause of morbidity (Manson & Bassuk, 2003). In addition to an increased risk of health problems, obesity is linked to discrimination at work and school, interpersonal relationship problems, and psychological problems (Pingitore, Dugoni, Tindale, & Spring, 1994). The problems associated with obesity are especially worrisome because the number of obese people in the United States is epidemic (Manson & Bassuk, 2003). LaCaille, Dauner, Krambeer, and Pederson (2011) found that the critical period of increasing weight is when people are between the ages of 18 and 29. When they attend college, these people are more likely to gain weight and become obese than those who are in different age groups and who do not attend college. Because the United States has higher rates of obesity compared to other countries and college students are more likely to become obese, environmental factors seem to play an 1 Youngki Hong ([email protected]) is a junior graduating in May 2014. He will receive his B.S. in Psychology, with a focus on social psychology. He plans to pursue postgraduate studies in social psychology. His primary research interests are automaticity in social-cognitive processes and individual differences moderating social behaviors.

VOLUME 8 – SPRING 2013 - www.psych.umn.edu/sentience © 2013 Regents of the University of Minnesota

important role in shaping people’s unhealthy eating habits, which may lead to weight gain and obesity. However, not everyone in the United States has an unhealthy eating style and not every college student develops an unhealthy eating style over the course of his or her college life; there are still substantial individual differences in people’s weight and eating behaviors. Thus, explanations for such great variations in individuals who share the same environment are necessary. Numerous studies (e.g., Booth-Kewley & Vickers, 1994) examined possible explanations for individual differences in people’s weights and their eating behaviors, such as the Big Five personality traits (Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism). These studies found that among these five traits, conscientiousness had the strongest relationship with people’s healthy eating behavior. In accordance with this relationship, Costa and McCrae (1998) defined an individual who has a high level of conscientiousness as someone who is dependable, motivated to achieve, prudent, and self-disciplined; all of which are either indirectly or directly associated with engaging in healthy eating behaviors. Examples of healthy eating behaviors include consuming vegetables and fruits, eating three meals a day, and consuming less sugar and sodium (Adams & Mowen, 2008). Provencher, Bégin, Gagnon-Girouard, Tremlay, Boivin, and Lemieux (2008) assessed people’s Big Five traits

8

PERSONALITY AND EATING BEHAVIOR

with the NEO Five-Factor Inventory and their eating behaviors by using the Three-Factor Eating Questionnaire (TFEQ). They found a significant correlation between individuals’ level of conscientiousness and their eating behaviors: conscientiousness level was negatively associated with disinhibition of food and susceptibility to hunger, both of which were defined as unhealthy eating behaviors. Vollrath Hampson, and Júlíusson (2012) showed additional support for the relationship between individuals’ conscientiousness levels and eating behaviors. In this study, mothers rated their children’s Big Five traits with the observer-based Big Five Inventory and they also reported how often their children consumed different foods. The children’s conscientiousness level was positively correlated with consumption of fruits and vegetables, and was negatively correlated with consumption of sweet drinks, both of which are included as examples of Adams and Mowen’s (2008) healthy eating behaviors. Aside from a simple relationship between conscientiousness level and people’s eating behavior, BoothKewley and Vickers (1994) looked at predictability of personality traits for people’s wellness behaviors by controlling for other personality traits. First they assessed people’s Big Five traits with the NEO Personality Inventory and their health behaviors with the Health Behavior Check List. Then, they computed the partial correlation for each personality trait to control for the remaining four traits. Their data showed that when the other four traits were controlled, the conscientiousness level remained significant in predicting people’s healthy eating behaviors, whereas the other four traits were less potent predictors of health behaviors. As previous studies (e.g., Provencher et al., 2008) have found, conscientiousness was the strongest predictor of people’s healthy eating behavior. However, research remains to be done with participants who share the same environment — students who attend the same university. As LaCaille et al. (2011) found, people who attend colleges are more likely to gain weight, mainly due to the development of an unhealthy eating style. Moreover, it is necessary to explain the large individual differences in eating behavior of those who attend the same university. This explanation may allow us to pinpoint several factors associated with obesity and to develop potential preventions and solutions for problems associated with obesity. For this reason, we administered a personality test that focuses on conscientiousness and a healthy eating behavior and attitude scale. Through the tests, we were able to examine the relationship between students’ conscientiousness levels and their current eating behaviors and attitudes in the context of attending the same university. In addition, we attempted to address factors that might be associated with student’s eating behaviors other than their personality traits and the shared environment, such as their gender, ethnicity, residency and cultural backgrounds. All things considered, we hypothesized that the students who have high levels of conscientiousness tended to have healthier eating behaviors and attitudes than the students who have low levels of conscientiousness.

VOLUME 8 – SPRING 2013 - www.psych.umn.edu/sentience © 2013 Regents of the University of Minnesota

Hong

METHOD Participants This study was conducted with a sample of 60 undergraduate students at a large Midwestern university. A convenience sample of participants was taken from different classrooms. The ages of the participants ranged from 18 to 27 years (M = 20.88, SD = 2.07). 38.3% of the participants were males and the remaining 61.7% of them were females. The ethnicities of the participants were distributed with 53.3% Whites, 5% Hispanics, 6.7% African Americans, and 35% Asians. At the time of the survey, 25% the participants were living in student dormitories and 75% students were living in either student apartments or off-campus housing. Participation in the study was voluntary and participants did not receive any compensation. Materials In our study, two questionnaires were used. The first was a measure of conscientiousness level, which consisted of 20 items out of 44 items taken from John, Donahue, and Kentle’s (1991) Big Five Inventory (BFI). Because we were only interested in the students’ levels of conscientiousness, we shortened the original version of the BFI by eliminating most of the conscientiousness-unrelated items. We included 11 of the conscientiousness-unrelated items as filler items to control for demand characteristics, and we used the nine conscientiousness items on our shortened version of the BFI (see Appendix A). Participants were asked to respond to the personality questions using a rating scale that ranged from 1 to 5, with ‘1’ representing strongly disagree and ‘5’ representing strongly agree. For example, one conscientiousness item stated, “I am someone who does a thorough job.” Participants responded by indicating the number that most accurately applied to them. This questionnaire also included a section at the bottom to obtain demographic information. The second questionnaire assessed the students’ healthy eating attitudes and behaviors. It consisted of six items from Adam and Mowen’s (2008) healthy eating behavior measure and three items from Joireman, Shaffer, Balliet, and Strathman’s (2012) healthy eating attitude measure (see Appendix B). Participants responded to the healthy eating behavior questions using a rating scale that ranged from 1 to 5; ‘1’ represented never (applicable to their eating behaviors) and ‘5’ represented almost always (applicable to their eating behaviors). For example, one statement was “I have 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day.” Healthy eating attitude questions used a similar rating scale except ‘1’ represented not at all (representative of their eating attitudes) and ‘5’ represented very much (representative of their eating attitudes). For example, one statement was “I feel great personal satisfaction when I eat healthy.” Procedure We haphazardly recruited participants by asking classmates if they would be willing to participate in our study on the relationship between personality traits and healthy eating

9

PERSONALITY AND EATING BEHAVIOR

Hong

behaviors. Once students agreed to participate in our study, we read the informed consent information to them and verbally obtained their consent to participate. Then we handed out twosided questionnaires (a shortened version of the BFI with demographic information questions on one side and the informed consent and the healthy eating behavior and attitude scale on the other side) and asked participants to fill out the eating behavior and attitude scale first. After participants completed both sides of the questionnaires, we debriefed them by explaining that we were specifically studying the relationship between their conscientiousness level and healthy eating behaviors and attitudes, and that some items on the BFI were filler items. Finally, we answered any questions that participants asked after the debriefing session. RESULTS To calculate each student’s conscientiousness score, we added the numerical values of the responses given for each question; the total score could range from 9 to 45. Among 20 items on our shortened version of the BFI, we only scored nine conscientiousness-related items, which are marked with asterisks in Appendix A. For the questions that are followed by ‘R’, we reversed the score before adding the number to the conscientiousness level scores. For example, if a participant indicated a ‘1’ for question number 17, we added a ‘5’ to the conscientiousness score. To score the student’s eating behavior and attitude, we simply added up the numerical values of the responses given for each question, and the total score could range from 8 to 40. We then calculated a Pearson correlation to determine the relationship between students’ conscientiousness levels and their eating behaviors and attitudes. Results indicated that the students’ levels of conscientiousness were significantly correlated with their scores on the Healthy Eating Attitude and Behavior Scale, r(59) = 0.741, p < 0.001. The scatterplot in Figure 1 illustrates the positive relationship. Thus, as students’ levels of conscientiousness increased, their scores on Healthy Eating Attitude and Behavior Scale increased. DISCUSSION The results support our hypothesis that the students who have high levels of conscientiousness tended to have healthier eating behaviors and attitudes compared to the students who have low levels of conscientiousness. Our results are consistent with the previous research findings. Provencher et al. (2008) found a significant positive relationship between people’s levels of conscientiousness and healthy eating behaviors, and Vollrath et al. (2012)’s results showed a significant positive relationship between children’s conscientiousness level and their vegetables and fruits consumptions. Although previous studies (e.g., Booth-Kewley & Vickers, 1994; Provencher et al., 2008; Vollarath et al.,

VOLUME 8 – SPRING 2013 - www.psych.umn.edu/sentience © 2013 Regents of the University of Minnesota

FIGURE 1. Scatterplot for the students’ conscientiousness level scores and their scores on healthy eating behavior and attitude scale.

2012) used different measures, all have found positive and significant correlations between personality traits, especially conscientiousness level, and healthy eating behaviors and attitudes. Findings from the present study showed the generalizability of these observations by demonstrating that the association between conscientiousness level and healthy eating behavior and attitude existed in a sample of college students. While LaCaille et al. (2011) stated that people gain weight when they attend college due to the development of an unhealthy eating style, our findings suggested that people high in conscientiousness have relatively healthy eating behaviors and attitudes, even though they attend the same college. Moreover, because our study utilized different scales to assess students’ eating behaviors and attitudes than other studies and found consistent results, our study contributed to the evidence of past research findings. Finally, although correlation does not imply causation, consideration of the findings from previous studies combined with the present study’s result of high correlation (r = 0.741) suggested a possibility that increasing people’s conscientiousness may help to establish healthier eating behaviors and attitudes. Our study demonstrated the strong, positive relationship between students’ levels of conscientiousness and their healthy eating behaviors and attitudes, regardless of the environment. Our results supported the existing body of research evidence (e.g., Booth-Kewley & Vickers, 1994; Provencher et al., 2008; Vollarath et al., 2012) that conscientiousness level is related to people’s eating behaviors and attitudes. This suggested that individual differences in eating behavior and attitude among college students are likely due to the differences in personality traits rather than the influences of the environment. One caution regarding the conclusion is that the participants recruited in our study were not evenly distributed in regards to gender, race, and residency. Females, Whites and

10

PERSONALITY AND EATING BEHAVIOR

Hong

Asians, and people living in apartments or off-campus housing made up the majority of our sample. For example, it is possible that only the females’, not males’, levels of conscientiousness were related to healthy eating behaviors and attitudes, producing a significant correlation for our sample. Thus, it is necessary for future research to be done with samples that are evenly distributed and are well representative of the population. In addition, because our study was correlational, direction of causality cannot be inferred and it is possible that students’ eating behaviors could have affected their conscientiousness level, or that other variables could have affected both. To resolve this issue, future longitudinal studies are necessary, where we would be more confident in inferring a causal relationship. If we can be more confident about a causal relationship between people’s levels of conscientiousness and their eating behaviors and attitudes, finding ways to train and increase people’s conscientiousness may help improve their eating behaviors and attitudes.

APPENDIX B

APPENDIX A REFERENCES

Who I am Here are a number of characteristics that may or may not apply to you. Please write a number next to each statement to indicate the extent to which you agree or disagree with that statement. 1 Disagree Strongly

2 Disagree a little

3 Neither agree nor disagree

4 Agree a little

5 Agree strongly

I am someone who… 1. _____ Does a thorough job*

11. _____ Perseveres until the task is finished*

2. _____ Tends to find fault with others

12. _____ Is emotionally stable, not easily upset

3. _____ Can be somewhat careless* R

13. _____ Makes plans and follows through with them *

4. _____ Is ingenious, a deep thinker 14. _____ Is full of energy 5. _____ Is a reliable worker* 15. _____ Does things efficiently* 6. _____ Gets nervous easily 16. _____ Prefers work that is routine 7. _____ Tends to be disorganized* R 17. _____ Is easily distracted* R 8. _____ Likes to cooperate with others 18. _____ Is outgoing, sociable 9. _____ Tends to be lazy* R 19. _____ Likes to reflect, play with ideas 10. _____ Values artistic, aesthetic experiences 20. _____ Is generally trusting

Demographic Information (Please note, all the information will be used anonymously for our research use only)

1. What is your gender? a. Female b. Male c. Other

5. What is your ethnicity? (Select all that apply) a. White, non-Hispanic b. African American or Black

2. What is your country of birth?

c. Hispanic d. Asian e. American Indian or Alaska Native

3. Do you currently live in a dorm or apartment?

f. Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander g. Other___________________

4. What is your age?

An (*) means items measuring conscientiousness, others are filler items. An (R) means to score it inversely, for example, if answer is 1, scores it as 5. (*) and (R) signs were not included in the original questionnaire.

VOLUME 8 – SPRING 2013 - www.psych.umn.edu/sentience © 2013 Regents of the University of Minnesota

Adams, T.B., & Mowen, J.C. (2008). Identifying the personality characteristics of healthy eaters and exercisers: A hierarchical model approach. Health Marketing Quarterly, 23, 21-42. Booth-Kewley, S., & Vickers, R.R. (1994). Associations between major domains of personality and health behavior. Journal of Personality, 62, 281-298. Costa, P.T. Jr., & McCrae, R.R. (1998). Six approaches to the explication of facet-level traits: Examples from conscientiousness. European Journal of Personality, 12, 117-134. John, O.P., Donahue, E.M., & Kentle, R.L. (1991). The Big Five Inventory-Versions 4a and 54. Berkeley, CA: University of California, Berkeley, Institute of Personality and Social Research. Joireman, J., Shaffer, M.J., Balliet, D., & Strathman, A. (2012). Promotion orientation explains why future-oriented people exercise and eat healthy: Evidence from the two-factor consideration of future consequences-14 scale. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 38, 1272-1287. LaCaille, L.J., Dauner, K.N., Krambeer, R.J., & Pedersen, J. (2011). Psychosocial and environmental determinants of eating behavior, physical activity, and weight change among college students: A qualitative analysis. Journal of American College Health, 59, 531-538. Manson, J.E., & Bassuk, S.S. (2003). Obesity in the United States: A fresh look at its high toll. The Journal of the American Medical Association, 289, 229-230. Pingitore, R., Dugoni, B.L., Tindale, R.S., & Spring, B. (1994). Bias against overweight job applicants in a simulated employment interview. Journal of Applied Psychology, 79, 909-917. Provencher, V., Bégin, C., Gagnon-Girouard, M., Tremlay, A., Boivin, S., & Lemieux, S. (2008). Personality traits in overweight and obese women: Associations with BMI and eating behaviors. Eating Behaviors, 9, 294302. Vollrath, M.E., Hampson, S.E., & Júlíusson, P.B. (2012). Children and eating. Personality and gender are associated with obesogenic food consumption and overweight in 6- to 12-year-olds. Appetite, 58, 11131117.

11

The Relationship between Students ...

Participants completed a shortened version of Big Five Inventory (BFI) and a Healthy Eating Behavior and. Attitude scale. We found a significant and ... Their data showed that when the other four traits were controlled, the ..... The Big Five Inventory--. Versions 4a and 54. Berkeley, CA: University of California, Berkeley,.

308KB Sizes 1 Downloads 211 Views

Recommend Documents

The Relationship between Child Temperament ...
effects were small, accounting for approximately 5% of ... small, accounting for only about 5% of the overall variance ... their degree of talkativeness/extraversion.

The relationship between corporate social ...
Published online 30 December 2008 in Wiley InterScience ... model by theorizing that some types of CSR activities will be more likely to create goodwill and offer insurance-like protection than .... norm for business is profit making (Friedland.

RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN GIBBERELLINS, HEIGHT ...
and for giving me the opportunity to pursue my Masters degree under his ...... activity was discovered du ring fungicide screening programs in the 1 970s (Davis .... with paclobutrazol is increased interveinal distance (Sopher et al., 1999). In.

The relationship within and between the extrinsic and intrinsic systems ...
Apr 1, 2007 - aDepartment of Biomedical Engineering, School of Computer and Information .... system. These resting state functional network patterns have been .... peaks in a previous study (Tian et al., in press), and the one for the.

The Relationship Between the UNIVAC Computer and ... - IJEECS
Similarly, we show the diagram used by our heuristic in Figure 1. While futurists rarely assume the exact opposite, ... Intel 386s from the NSA's Internet-2 cluster to better understand our mobile telephones. We only characterized ... space of our se

Establishing the Nexus The Definitive Relationship Between Child ...
http://www.missingkids.com/en_US/publications/NC70.pdf [hereinafter ... However, in United States v. Leon,. 6. the Supreme Court. 3. U.S. CONST. amend. IV. 4.

Relationship between Chemical Characteristics of ...
39.2. 20.7. 32.76. 25.71. 22.50. 26.97. 153. 212. 338. 230. 0.0054. 2.00. 0.410. 21.6. 28.10. 267. 0.0036. 2.29. 0.303. 19.1. 29.45. 420. 0.0014. 0.96. 0.615. 47.9.

Input-Output Relationship between 47 Project Management ...
WPD WPD WPD WPD Dlvrbls; WPD WPD WPD WPD WPD. PR Doc Upd. PMP ... Input-Output Relationship between 47 Project Management Processes.pdf.

Relationship between thermomechanical treatment ...
recovery (95% after 4% tensile strain) at a training temperature of 873 K. Its residual strain is related to the generation of perfect .... process (the most common data is around 50% shape ... parable to the best results published, especially in re-

The Relationship Between the UNIVAC Computer and ... - GitHub
Apr 28, 2015 - Computer and Evolutionary Programming. Bob, Carol and Alice ... tiplayer online role-playing games and the location-identity split. We con-.