Date of Award

Summer 8-17-2018

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Public Administration


Emily A. P. Haigh

Second Committee Member

Shannon K. McCoy

Third Committee Member

Michael A. Robbins

Additional Committee Members

Sandra T. Sigmon

Stacy Whitcomb-Smith


The central aim of this study was to investigate the predictive role of perceived control in binge eating severity, mood reactivity, and possible concomitants with reduced cardiovascular function as measured by high frequency heart rate variability (HF-HRV/RSA). Participants (N = 75) included normal to overweight men and women who completed self-report measures assessing perceived control, binge eating severity, perceived stress, negative affect, and depressive symptom severity prior to a structured clinical interview and second experimental laboratory session. During this second experimental lab session, noninvasive electrical sensors were placed for physiological recordings to measure fluctuations in HF-HRV/RSA in participants randomized to a negative or neutral mood induction task. In addition to physiological data, participants completed self-report measures of mood and stress during baseline assessment, post-mood induction, and following a recovery period.

Results indicated that perceived control was predictive of binge eating severity such that higher self-reported perceived control was associated with less severe binge eating symptoms. This association was significantly mediated by perceived stress and depressive symptoms, such that those with greater perceived control also experienced less perceived stress and reduced depressive symptoms, which then significantly predicted less binge eating severity. These associations remained significant across sex and history of major depressive disorder (MDD). No significant associations were observed between perceived control, binge eating severity, and mood, stress, or HF-HRV/RSA reactivity.

Results from the current investigation suggest that perceived control may buffer individuals from stress and depressive symptoms and predict less severe binge eating symptoms. Importantly, perceived control is an adaptive variable that can be modified through experience (Surtees et al., 2010). In line with prior research, which suggests that perceived control may be a malleable treatment target and predictive of positive outcomes following CBT for anxiety and mood disorders (Doering et al., 2015), the current results propose that perceived control may be a universal treatment target across various binge eating populations.