Food as a cultural input: Children's differential consumption, evaluations, and beliefs about others' food choices /

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Bibliographic Details
Author / Creator:DeJesus, Jasmine Marie, author.
Ann Arbor : ProQuest Dissertations & Theses, 2015
Description:1 electronic resource (96 pages)
Format: E-Resource Dissertations
Local Note:School code: 0330
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Other authors / contributors:University of Chicago. degree granting institution.
Notes:Advisors: Katherine D. Kinzler Committee members: Susan C. Levine; Alex Shaw; Kristin Shutts; Amanda L. Woodward.
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Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume: 77-02(E), Section: B.
Summary:Human food selection is extremely complex. In addition to its biological functions, food serves as an important medium for cultural exchange. This dissertation explores the development of children's reasoning about food as a cultural action by investigating three research questions. First, when do children avoid eating foods that have been contaminated by other people, and can social information facilitate the avoidance of contaminated food? In Part I, 5- to 8-year-old children ate more clean food than contaminated food and evaluated the clean food more positively than the contaminated food. Three- and 4-year-old children did not differentiate between foods. These findings suggest that children use contextual information about contamination to differentiate between otherwise identical foods, yet contamination avoidance may undergo a protracted developmental trajectory. In Part II, 3- and 4-year-old children demonstrated contamination avoidance when foods were presented in a foreign context: They ate more clean food offered by a native speaker than contaminated food offered by a foreign speaker. These results suggest that reasoning about social groups may support children's reasoning about contamination. Second, do children judge others based on their food preferences? In Part III, 5-year-old children negatively evaluated individuals who ate unconventional foods. Children evaluated unconventional eaters just as negatively as people who ate disgust elicitors, and they also associated unconventional food choices with cultural outgroup members. These findings suggest that children judge others based on their food choices and provide further evidence of children's understanding of the association between eating behavior and cultural group membership observed in Part II. Third, is children's subjective experience of taste influenced by social information? In Part IV, 5- and 6-year-old children used social information to categorize ambiguous stimuli, and they were more likely to report that an ambiguous food described as popular was sweet compared to the same food described as unpopular. These results demonstrate that contextual social information impacts children's eating experience. Taken together, these findings provide evidence that young children's consumption, evaluation, and judgments of other's food preferences are highly influenced by cultural inputs. Specifically, children's attention to contamination, their beliefs about other people's food choices, and their own eating behaviors are organized via social reasoning.