Clustering individuals' temporal patterns of affective states, hunger, and food craving by latent class vector-autoregression

Björn Pannicke*, Jens Blechert, Julia Reichenberger, Tim Kaiser

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Eating plays an important role in mental and physical health and is influenced by affective (e.g., emotions, stress) and appetitive (i.e., food craving, hunger) states, among others. Yet, substantial temporal variability and marked individual differences in these relationships have been reported. Exploratory data analytical approaches that account for variability between and within individuals might benefit respective theory development and subsequent confirmatory studies.

METHODS: Across 2 weeks, 115 individuals (83% female) reported on momentary affective states, hunger, and food craving six times a day. Based on these ecological momentary assessment (EMA) data we investigated whether latent class vector-autoregression (LCVAR) can identify different clusters of participants based on similarities in their temporal associations between these states.

RESULTS: LCVAR allocated participants into three distinct clusters. Within clusters, we found both positive and negative associations between affective states and hunger/food craving, which further varied temporally across lags. Associations between hunger/food craving and subsequent affective states were more pronounced than vice versa. Clusters differed on eating-related traits such as stress-eating and food craving as well as on EMA completion rates.

DISCUSSION: LCVAR provides novel opportunities to analyse time-series data in affective science and eating behaviour research and uncovers that traditional models of affect-eating relationships might be overly simplistic. Temporal associations differ between subgroups of individuals with specific links to eating-related traits. Moreover, even within subgroups, differences in associations across time and specific affective states can be observed. To account for this high degree of variability, future research and theories should consider individual differences in direction and time lag of associations between affective states and eating behaviour, daytime and specific affective states. In addition to that, methodological implications for EMA research are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number57
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity
Publication statusPublished - 21 May 2022

Bibliographical note

© 2022. The Author(s).


  • Latent class vector-autoregression
  • Cluster
  • Eating behaviour
  • Food craving
  • Hunger
  • Affect
  • Stress coping
  • Temporal relationships
  • Individual differences

Fields of Science and Technology Classification 2012

  • 501 Psychology

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