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Abstract

LUNCH AND SELECTIVITY IN MEMORY AND ATTENTION

Andrew P. Smith*

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Abstract

Background: Research in industrial settings and in the laboratory suggests that performance declines in the post-lunch period. Some evidence suggests that this post-lunch dip is due to the consumption of a meal, whereas other studies show that it reflects endogenous rhythms. The post-lunch dip is modified by factors such as personality, gender, meal type, and the nature of the task carried out. The present study examined whether the performance of tasks involving selectivity in memory and attention is impaired in the afternoon and whether this depends on consuming lunch. Method: A parallel-group design was used. One hundred and twenty university students (50% male) participated in the study. Baseline measurements were taken between 9.30 and 11.30 am. Volunteers were then assigned to one of five groups: (1) Pre-lunch testing, (2) Early afternoon post-lunch testing, (3) Early afternoon post- no lunch testing, (4) Late afternoon post-lunch testing, and (5) Late afternoon post- no lunch testing. In each session, cardiovascular measures were taken, mood was rated before and after the performance tests and tests measuring selectivity in memory and attention were carried out. Results: Heart rate was significantly higher after the consumption of lunch. At the start of the test session, mood ratings were less positive in the early afternoon if lunch was missed. At the end of the test session, consumption of lunch led to a more negative mood in the late afternoon, whereas those who fasted had a more negative mood in the early afternoon. None of the tasks measuring selectivity in memory and attention showed significant differences between the late morning and early afternoon. Similarly, the performance of these tasks showed no differences between lunch and no lunch conditions. Conclusion: The present study showed little evidence of performance of selective attention and memory tasks varying as a function of time of day or consumption of lunch. In contrast, pulse rate was influenced by lunch, and hedonic tone varied with the time of day, a finding that depended on when mood was measured and whether lunch had been consumed.

Keywords: Lunch; Heart rate; Blood pressure; Mood; Selective Attention; Task Priority; Category Instances; Stroop Task; Biased probability choice reaction time.


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