Tears for pears: Influence of children’s neophobia on categorization performance and strategy in the food domain


Journal Article


Damien Foinant, Jérémie Lafraire,& Jean-Pierre Thibaut




Tears for pears: Influence of children’s neophobia on categorization performance and strategy in the food domain

Journal / Livre / Conférence

Frontiers in Nutrition


Preschoolers’ neophobic dispositions mainly target fruits and vegetables. They received a great deal of attention in the past decades as these dispositions represent the main psychological barrier to dietary variety. Recently, children’s food neophobia has been found to be negatively correlated with their categorization performance (i.e., the accuracy to discriminate food from nonfood, and between food categories). We investigated categorization strategies among neophobic children, tendencies to favor one type of error over the other (misses over false alarms), in order to compensate for their poor categorization performance. To capture children’s categorization strategies, we used the Signal Detection Theory framework. A first experiment assessed 120 3-to-6-years old children’ sensitivity to discriminate between foods and nonfoods as well as their decision criterion (i.e., response strategy). In a second experiment, we manipulated the influence of food processing. The hypothesis was that food processing acts as a sign of human interventions that decreases uncertainty about edibility and thus promotes feelings of safety in the food domain. 137 children were tested on a food versus nonfood categorization task contrasting whole and sliced stimuli. In both experiments, increased levels of food neophobia were significantly associated with poorer categorization sensitivity and with a more conservative decision criterion (i.e., favoring “it is inedible” errors). Additionally, results from Experiment 2 revealed that food processing did not influence neophobic children, whereas their neophilic counterparts adopted a more liberal decision criterion for sliced stimuli than for whole stimuli. These findings are the first demonstration of a relationship between a decision criterion and food neophobia in young children. These results have strong implications for theories of food neophobia and laid the groundwork for designing novel types of food education interventions.






food neophobia, categorization, signal detection theory, food processing, children

Liens relatifs

  • https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnut.2022.951890


Télécharger cette publication au format PDF

‹ Retour à la page précédente