A theoretical proposal for a perceptually driven, food-based disgust that can influence food acceptance during early childhood
Disgust is not thought to influence the acceptability of food during infancy and early childhood as the cognitive functioning needed to understand contagion and the nature and origin of a given disgust stimulus, has to have sufficiently developed. Despite this, studies have demonstrated the potential for disgust in children as young as two years of age. Furthermore, it seems that young children can demonstrate aspects of disgust, without having cognitive understanding of contagion. This review is the first paper to demonstrate how core disgust may influence the acceptability of foods from as young as late infancy. Using support from existing theory and research, the paper argues several factors exist to support the proposal. Firstly, food neophobia may act as a catalyst for disgust responses during late infancy/early childhood. Secondly, that disgust in young children can result from visual perceptual elements that are specifically related to foods (as opposed to a cognitive response based on non-food disgust stimuli). Thirdly, that some disliked foods have contaminating properties, much like non-food, adult disgust stimuli (e.g. insects). Fourthly, that the response reduces as the child ages and learns more about food and its variability between presentations. Finally, individual differences exist to explain why an individual child may be more or less likely to respond to a given food with a disgust response.
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