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The child's conception of food: the development of food rejections with special reference to disgust and contamination sensitivity

Child Development 55(2): 566-575

The child's conception of food: the development of food rejections with special reference to disgust and contamination sensitivity

Structured interviews with 3.5-12-year-old children and their mothers were directed at documenting the development of 4 psychological categories of food rejection. The first to appear is rejection based purely on sensory characteristics, usually taste ( distastes ). Rejection based purely on anticipated harm following ingestion appears next (danger). Finally, the oldest children and adults show rejection based on the idea of what something is or where it comes from. This ideational type of rejection further differentiates into affectively laden rejections of substances that become offensive ( disgusts ) and more neutral rejections of substances as simply not food (inappropriate). A critical psychological feature of disgusting substances in adults is that they are "contaminants": they render an otherwise liked food inedible if present even in trace amounts, or if associated with a liked food. Contamination sensitivity is not present in the younger subjects, and appears gradually in the age range studied. Young children are unaware of the physical chemistry of solutions (e.g., diffusion and its lack of reversibility) and therefore do not show a "contamination response."

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Accession: 006614238

PMID: 6723447

DOI: 10.2307/1129968

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