Title: Social Tastes Sweeter
Legend: Children were more likely to classify mildly tart applesauce as sweet (rather than sour) when they heard that the food was popular with other children (compared to when they heard that the food was unpopular with other children). Note that the “popular” and “unpopular” foods were in fact identical in this study; only the descriptions differed. (Results from Experiment 3).
Citation: DeJesus JM, Shutts K, Kinzler KD. (2017). Mere social knowledge impacts children’s consumption and categorization of foods. Developmental Science. In press.
Abstract: How does social information affect the perception of taste early in life? Does mere knowledge of other people’s food preferences impact children’s own experience when eating? In Experiment 1, 5- and 6- year- old children consumed more of a food described as popular with other children than a food that was described as unpopular with other children, even though the two foods were identical. In Experiment 2, children ate more of a food described as popular with children than a food described as popular with adults. Experiment 3 tested whether different perceptual experiences of otherwise identical foods contributed to the mechanisms underlying children’s consumption. After sampling both endpoints of a sweet- to- sour range (applesauce with 0 mL or 5mL of lemon juice added), children were asked to taste and categorize applesauce samples with varying amounts of lemon juice added. When classifying ambiguous samples that were near the midpoint of the range (2 mL and 3 mL), children were more likely to categorize popular foods as sweet as compared to unpopular foods. Together, these findings provide evidence that social information plays a powerful role in guiding children’s consumption and perception of foods.
About the Lab: The Shutts’ lab interests lie in the origins of object cognition and social cognition. It has a long-standing interest in how infants and children perceive and categorize objects, as well as a more recent, and now primary, interest in how infants and children apprehend their social world. They are particularly interested in the development of social categories and preferences in infancy and early childhood. When do children come to see themselves and others as belonging to different social categories (e.g., gender, ethnicity, social class), which distinctions matter most to children, and how does this change over development and a result of immersion in a particular culture? What mechanisms support the development of social categories and preferences, and what are the cognitive and affective consequences of children’s earliest social category formation?