Biological/ Evolutionary Explanations of Food Preferences

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  • Created by: rhallett
  • Created on: 09-12-15 19:35
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  • Biological & Evolutionary Explanations of Food Preferences
    • Evolutionary psychologists argue humans have evolved to prefer foods that were important for survival in the Environment of Evolutionary Adaptation (EEA) when humans were hunter gatherers and food supplies would have been unreliable
    • Preference for Fat
      • During evolution, fat would have been essential to the diet but hard to get. Therefore it would have been adaptive to prefer high fat foods and be prepared to find them
      • +Observations of wild chimpanzees, our closest relatives, support this; when they manage to kill a monkey the go straight for the fattiest parts such as the brain and bone marrow; may suggest humans have evolved to prefer fatty foods as well
        • -Yet this finding might not extrapolate to humans because chimpanzees may have evolved differently to humans; human preferences may have other causes. In general, humans are more shaped by social and cultural factors than chimpanzees.
    • Preference for Sweet Foods
      • Logue argues that it would have been adaptive for humans to evolve to like sweet tastes as they often indicate high calorie content
      • +The human tongue has far more taste receptors for sweet flavours than for others which suggests that it has evolved to identify sweet tastes
      • +Logue's research has found that people of all age groups (even as young as 3 days old) prefer sweet foods over others; suggests liking sweet foods isn't culturally leanred
      • +Bell gave sweet foods to Eskimos in Alaska who have nothing sweet in their diet, yet the foods were readily accepted despite their novel nature; suggesting an underlying evolved preference for sweet foods
    • Preference for High Calories
      • A similar argument states that it would have been adaptive to prefer high calorie foods as these would have been rare and an essential part of the diet
      • +Gibson found that 4-5 year old children chose fruit and vegetables on how calorific they were (bananas and potatoes) not on the basis of sweetness or protein content; humans have evolved to prefer high calorie foods
        • -However, there is a basic problem; it is a form of determinism which suggests humans can't resist eating certain types of foods, which clearly isn't the case as many people avoid high calorie foods when dieting
          • -It has also been argued that humans have evolved to avoid new foods-neophobia- would have been adaptive as it would have helped humans to avoid poisonous food.
            • -An aspect of neopphobia is that children show greater liking for food as they become more familiar, as shown by Frost
    • Anorexia
      • Some researchers aruge that even the extreme food preferences shown by anorexics have evolved
      • Guisinger argues that anorexia evolved because in certain situations -eg famine- it would have helped humans survive be enabling them to flee famine, which would have been a major problem for early humans
        • +Guisinger's main argument is that other species such as penguins have also evolved anorexic-like behaviours during mating and migration
          • -Yet this finding might not extrapolate to humans because chimpanzees may have evolved differently to humans; human preferences may have other causes. In general, humans are more shaped by social and cultural factors than penguins and other birds.

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