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Lotte van Dillen starts the European collaborative project Work Hard, Play Hard

Lotte van Dillen has been awarded a NWO funding for a research project in collaboration with Wilhelm Hofmann of the University of Cologne and Henk van Steenbergen of Leiden University about hedonic compensation.

The research proposal of social and organisational psychologist Van Dillen underwent a peer review process and was then assessed by a panel of international academics experts. The project will be funded with 550.000 euros for research up to three years in collaboration with the German social psychologist Hofmann and the Leiden cognitive psychologist Van Steenbergen.  Funding has come from the Open Research Area for the Social Sciences (ORA), a European scheme in which the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) participates. 

Work Hard, Play Hard

Neuropsychological Correlates and Behavioral Implications of Hedonic Compensation.
Lotte van Dillen, Leiden University (NL); Wilhelm Hofmann, Cologne University (D); Henk van Steenbergen, Leiden University (NL)
Fourteen Dutch Researchers Funded for Collaborative Projects across Europe and Japan


People pay less and less attention to their meals and often eat while watching TV, while driving, or while monitoring their computers. At the same time, foods and drinks have become sweeter, saltier, and fatter over the past decades. We argue that these are not independent trends. Engaging in activities requires mental capacity. This capacity is limited, leaving less room for processing of sensory information such as taste. We posit that mental load, induced by concurrent tasks or concerns, interferes with reward processing from consumption. Because people strive to obtain pleasure from the goods they consume, they employ compensatory behaviors to up-regulate hedonic value. We advance a new framework to understand this phenomenon, which we label hedonic compensation.

We will integrate lab-based behavioral neuroscience experiments with experience sampling studies in the field. By linking neural reward responses to sweet substances with consumption, we examine how reduced hedonic processing under mental load leads to compensation. By extending our findings to other consumption domains, and to the real world, we study the general nature of hedonic compensation. In our project, we combine the expertise of two research labs to gain more insight in the relationship between mental capacity, hedonic experience, and consumption, and in the problems resulting from an imbalance between these factors. This, in turn, may lead to new tools to help people live a fulfilling and healthy life.

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