Course Syllabus

Psychology of Food:

A Biopsychosocial Perspective

Preliminary Syllabus

DIS Logo

lighted eat what makes you happy neon signage  

Semester & Location:

Fall 2023 - DIS Stockholm

Type & Credits:

Elective Course - 3 credits

Major Disciplines:

Psychology, Sociology


One psychology course at a university level.

Faculty Members:

Hannaneh Yazdi (current students please use the Canvas Inbox)

Program Contact:

Time & Place:



Course Description

Are you really what you eat, and if so, what does that mean? Food carries historical and cultural meanings: from SoMe food pornographers and ethically-inspired vegans to the public health challenges of toxic food environments, diet culture, and malnourishment, we all have a relationship to food that surpasses mere physiology. This course will explore the psychological, neurocognitive, and sociocultural aspects of our relationship with food to better understand its meaning in our everyday lives.


Learning Objectives

The course will move beyond a solely physiological explanation of food and eating and enable you to see the relationship between psychological process and the meaning and food in its wider context in terms of everyday life and real routines.  With a focus on social and cognitive scientific approaches, we will explore the meaning of food and eating through a psychological lens drawing on biopsychosocial, anthropological, structural, and feminist approaches.

By the end of this course you should be able to demonstrate the following:

  • An understanding of how psychological factors influence our eating behavior
  • An appreciation of broader cultural, social, and economic factors and their role in shaping thoughts and behaviors around food and health
  • An ability to critically evaluate the relationship between food, wellness, and mental health.
  • An understanding of how food trends – historical and current - correspond to shifts and changes in society in general and how these in return are utilized in the construction of the self.





(please note that these are sample readings and are subject to change)

Abbaszadeh, A., Saharkhiz, M., Khorasanchi, Z., Karbasi, S., Askari, M., Hoseini, Z. S., ... & Bahrami, A. (2021). Impact of a Nordic diet on psychological function in young students. Nutrition and Health, 27(1), 97-104.

Andersson, H. (2020). Nature, nationalism and neoliberalism on food packaging: The case of Sweden. Discourse, Context & Media, 34, 100329.

Block, J., Scribner, R., & DeSalvo, K. (2004). Fast food, race/ethnicity, and income: a geographic analysis. American Journal of Preventative Medicine, 27(3), 211-17.

Brillat-Savarin, J. A. (1825) The physiology of taste; or, transcendental gastronomy. Online edition.

Chamberlain, K. (2004). Food and health: Expanding the agenda for health psychology. Journal of Health Psychology, 9, 467-481.

Duram, L. (2005). Good growing: Why organic farming works. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.

Forster, E., & Forster, R. (Eds.) (1975). The European diet from pre-industrial to modern times. New York: Harper & Row.

Fleming-Milici, F., & Harris, J. L. (2020). Adolescents’ engagement with unhealthy food and beverage brands on social media. Appetite146, 104501.

Jacobson, H. (2013). Whole: Rethinking the science of nutritionism. Dallas, TX: BenBella Books.

Karrebæk, M. S., Riley, K. C., & Cavanaugh, J. R. (2018). Food and language: Production, consumption, and circulation of meaning and value. Annual Review of Anthropology, 47, 17-32.

Rappaport, L. (2003). How we eat: Appetite, culture, and the psychology of food. Ontario, Canada: ECW Press.

Reddy, G., & van Dam, R. M. (2020). Food, culture, and identity in multicultural societies: Insights from Singapore. Appetite, 149, 104633.

Richter, N., & Hunecke, M. (2020). Facets of mindfulness in stages of behavior change toward organic food consumption. Mindfulness, 11(6), 1354-1369.

Rosenfeld, D. L. (2018). The psychology of vegetarianism: Recent advances and future directions. Appetite, 131, 125-138.

Rost, S., & Lundälv, J. (2021). A systematic review of literature regarding food insecurity in Sweden. Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy, 21(1), 1020-1032.

Säll, S. (2018). Environmental food taxes and inequalities: Simulation of a meat tax in Sweden. Food Policy74, 147-153.

Touré‐Tillery, M., Steinmetz, J., & DiCosola, B. (2022). Feeling judged? How the presence of outgroup members promotes healthier food choices. Psychology & Marketing.


Possible Topics Covered

Basic needs, food and psychological development

  • Maslow
  • Psychodynamic theory
  • Attachment theory 

Culture, history and food

  • From Socrates to Cognitive Behaviourism
  • From the Frankfurt Kitchen to the New Nordic kitchen

Brain mechanisms, taste, reward and punishment

  • Neuropsychology of taste
  • Primary and secondary mechanisms in learning
  • Brain mechanisms for reward and punishment 

Possible Field Studies

Meyers Madhus (Meyers Food House) Food Design Workshop

Meyers Madhus provides gastronomic inspiration and business development for professionals. Meyers Madshus arranges workshops for large companies in the food industry with a high professional content. Their Food Design Workshops is particularly aimed at food professionals who are involved in product and concept development.

Here we will hear about the processes that takes places from the initial idea to the final product and how knowledge about current taste trends and consumer behavior plays a high role in the process.

Guided tour at Östermalms Saluhall

On their website. Östermalms Saluhall states that food market is “a beautiful and well preserved historical document of urban residents interest in good food and for 130 years it´s been a veritable oasis for gourmets and gastronomes”. We will visit the food market and have a guided tour with a focus on Östermalms Saluhalls historic importance as an institution in Stockholm, where food is in a historic setting, which since 1888 provides ingredients and food from Swedish and international cuisines. Östermalms Saluhall also has the highest level in the Stockholm City Museum’s cultural classification. Östermalms Saluhall cultural and historical heritage is stored inside the walls, and makes the building extremely special.

Possible Guest Lecturers

Food Blogger Niki Jennisch

Food Blogger Niki Jennisch is a Swedish food blogger who lives in Stockholm and spends most of his spare time exploring Stockholm’s culinary jungle and searching for the best for stories. For his guest lecture he will talk about what inspired him to open his blog and what role he thinks his works plays in other peoples life and the power he has over the choice people make.

Mando Group AB

The Mandometer treatment has been developed in co-operation with the Karolinska Institute and the results have been extensively published. More than 1,500 patients have been successfully treated during a 25-year period. Patients, parents and their relatives like the treatment, a large number of media reports and newspaper articles testify to its effectiveness is restoring eating behaviour, body weight, and the physical and mental health of the patients.

Approach to Teaching


Expectations of the Students



Participation and Attendance (15%)

You must attend every class. Excused absence includes serious illness and participation in religious holidays. All other absences are unexcused. If you must miss a class, please contact me as soon as possible. After 2 unexplained absences, the DIS Teaching and Learning office will be notified.

Active participation in class will include writing academic and personal reflections on Canvas, reading ahead of each class and contributing to class discussions.

Assignment 1 (15%)

More detailed information will be given closer to Fall 2023 semester.

Assignment 2 (20%)

More detailed information will be given closer to Fall 2023 semester.

Field research paper (25 %)

Write a paper that discusses your field research on a food production, distribution, or consumption center and the local, national, or global trends or ideologies affecting the center you visit and how this might have psychological impact on individual and group levels. You should explore at length how particular food trends or ideologies influence the way food is made, distributed, or eaten. You could choose to visit, for instance, a farmer’s market and talk to some of the farmers about their work; a local grocery store and evaluate the healthfulness and affordability of its options.

The paper must be 3-4 pages and refer to/discuss/cite at least 8 academic sources.

More detailed information will be given closer to Fall 2023 semester.

Final Project (25%)

More detailed information will be given closer to Fall 2023 semester.




Participation and engagement


Assignment 1


Assignment 2


Field Research Paper


Final Project




To be eligible for a passing grade in this class you must complete all of the assigned work.

Academic Regulations

Please make sure to read the Academic Regulations on the DIS website. There you will find regulations on:


DIS - Study Abroad in Scandinavia -


Course Summary:

Date Details Due