Understanding how children acquire their concepts of food nutrition is vital given the astounding increase in overweight and obese children in the United States. The proposed research aims to understand how 3- to 4- year-old children acquire evaluative categories of food (e.g., healthy/unhealthy and yummy/yucky) based on external sources of information (e.g., testimonies from a teacher, mom, child, and children's t.v. character). The broad, long-term objective of this research is to develop an empirically based theoretical account of the mechanisms contributing to children's acquisition of evaluative categories of food.
The specific aims of the proposed research are to: 1. Identify the different types of external sources of information that children use as input into their evaluative categories of food; 2. Examine children's recognition that the external sources of information that they use can be deceptive; and, 3. Explore how children's food selection is affected by the evaluative category information that external sources provide about food. Based on 4 lines of research, specifically categorization, source monitoring, theory of mind, and food selection, the specific hypotheses of the proposed research are: 1. children selectively use external sources of information as input into their evaluative categories of food; 2. by age 4 years, children recognize that external sources can be deceptive in the information that they offer about evaluative categories of food; and, 3. children's food selection is affected by the evaluative category information that external sources provide about food. To test these hypotheses, the proposed research includes 2 studies that employ a cross-sectional within subjects design. The general procedure is similar across the studies. The experimenter will interview children individually at their preschools for approximately 25 minutes. There will be an initial warm-up task in which children are introduced to key terms that will be used in the actual study (i.e., """"""""healthy,"""""""" """"""""unhealthy,"""""""" """"""""yummy,"""""""" """"""""yucky""""""""). Children will be provided with definitions of the terms and will then be asked follow-up questions. After the warm-up task, children will be presented with the external sources task. In the first phase of the task, children will be told that the object is to determine if various foods hidden in boxes are healthy, unhealthy, yummy, or yucky. Children will also be told that they will be given information that may or may not help them make their determinations. The external sources of information will recorded on video and will make various evaluative claims about the foods. After receiving information from different external sources, children will be asked questions about the evaluative status of the foods. In the second phase of the task, children will be told that the object is to determine if they would eat a food hidden in a box based on the evaluative information that they receive from different external sources. After receiving information from different external sources, children will be asked questions about food selection. Overall, the findings from the proposed research will have valuable implications for children's health and nutrition education, providing insights into effective teaching strategies and optimal interventions. The proposed research has valuable implications for children's learning of food nutrition: 1. identification of the different sources of information that children use may provide insight into children's misconceptions about food nutrition and provide a foundation for optimal intervention; 2. an examination of children's recognition of deceptive sources of information has ramifications for articulating strategies to help children distinguish between reliable and unreliable sources of information about food nutrition; and, 3. exploring how children's food selection is affected by the evaluative information that external sources provide may impact health educators' decisions about how to most effectively teach food nutrition. ? ? ?
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