(2) The Role of Learning in Food Preference

  • Created by: bintahall
  • Created on: 22-03-19 18:58

Social Influences

Parental influences: Suggests an association between parents and children's attitudes to food. Brown and Ogen reported correlations between parents and children in terms of snack and food intake, eating motivations and body dissatifaction. 

Peers: Social Learning Theory shows the impact that observing people has our own attitudes (imitation/modelling). Greenhalgh et al found the observation of peers has positive and negative effects on food preferences. Positive modelling makes children more likely to try new foods. Negative modelling makes children inhibit food consumption. Birch showed how exposure to another child could change food preferences: during 4 consecutive lunchtimes, children seated next to another children who preferred a different vegetable. Results: Children showed a change in their vegetable preference.

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Cultural influences

Media effects: Macintyre et al found that media have major impact on what people eat and their attitudes towards certain foods. However, many eating behaviours are limited by personal circumstances eg. age, income, family. However, they also state that many eating behaviours are limited by personal circumstances - thus people appear to learn from the media about healthy eating but must place this info within the broader context of their lives (ie. if they can afford it).

The context of meals: Societies in the US and UK they graze rather than eat meals thus people rely on takeaways. Maguire et al found in the UK the number of takeaway restaurants has risen by 45% in the last 18yrs, areas of high deprevation have the highest rate. Gillman et al commented on the decline of the family meal in Western cultures. Research suggests that eating meals informally eg. in front of the TV, increases consumption of unhealthy foods. 

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Evaluation of social influences

Limitations of the parental influence view: Limited small scale studies that usually select a sample of white Americans eg. Robison et al studied almost 800 eight yr olds from differenct backgrounds. Results: Complex association of food preferences with the behaviour of parents. Girls more influenced than boys. 

Not all parental influences are effective: Russel et al interviewed parents of 2-5yr olds about how they influenced the foods the children liked and disliked. Some were effective (parental modelling, food exposure), some weren't (forcing consumption, restricting food access)

Research support for the role of peers: Wardle et al found that parental fruit/vegetable consumption was a strong predictor of children's fruit/vegetable consumption. Jansen and Tenney (Netherlands) found that modelling eating/drinking of light/sugar free foods led to preference of them in primary-aged children.

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Evaluation of cultural influences

Research support for media influences on food preferences: Boyland and Halford supported that exposure to food ads on TV influences food preferences and food intake in children. However, found it influences children of different weights differently: Strong influence on obese children (sugar, fats and salt). Further supported by the fact that children who had the greatest preference for high carbs and high fat foods were also the ones that watched the most TV.

Real-world application: Implications of media influence on food preferences: Research shows TV is dominant for childrens exposure to food. Has led to countries developing regulations concering unhealthy food ads.

Food preferences and the food environment: Chen and Yang studied tweet made over 5 days in Ohio - they were analysed for food activities. There was a significant association between healthy food choices and the number of grocery stores around them. But there was no association between the number of fast food outlets and any food choice.

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