Visual exposure and categorization performance positively influence 3- to 6-year-old children's willingness to taste unfamiliar vegetables
Abstract The present research focuses on the effectiveness of visual exposure to vegetables in reducing food neophobia and pickiness among young children. We tested the hypotheses that (1) simple visual exposure to vegetables leads to an increase in the consumption of this food category, (2) diverse visual exposure to vegetables (i.e., vegetables varying in color are shown to children) leads to a greater increase in the consumption of this food category than classical exposure paradigms (i.e. the same mode of presentation of a given food across exposure sessions) and (3) visual exposure to vegetables leads to an increase in the consumption of this food category through a mediating effect of an increase in ease of categorization. We recruited 70 children aged 3–6 years who performed a 4-week study consisting of three phases: a 2-week visual exposure phase where place mats with pictures of vegetables were set on tables in school cafeterias, and pre and post intervention phases where willingness to try vegetables as well as cognitive performances were assessed for each child. Results indicated that visual exposure led to an increased consumption of exposed and non-exposed vegetables after the intervention period. Nevertheless, the exposure intervention where vegetables varying in color were shown to children was no more effective. Finally, results showed that an ease of categorization led to a larger impact after the exposure manipulation. The findings suggest that vegetable pictures might help parents to deal with some of the difficulties associated with the introduction of novel vegetables and furthermore that focusing on conceptual development could be an efficient way to tackle food neophobia and pickiness.
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