Evolutionary explanations for food preferences

What is the definition of food preferences?
Food preferences are desires for particular foods created because ancestral animals preferred to eat foods that were high in energy in order to survive and reproduce.
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What did Steiner (1977) do?
He placed sugar on the tongues of newborns and observed positive facial expressions.
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What did Steiner (1977) find?
He found that newborn babies could distinguish between different sugars. Babies will consume large quantities of fructose if allowed because it is especially sweet.
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What is the evolutionary explanation for Steiner's findings?
Fructose is a fast acting sugar, providing energy quickly, and is found in ripe fruits, which would have been favoured by our early ancestors.
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What is the function of salt in animals?
Salt is essential for cell functions in animals.
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What age does a preference for salt appear?
Around 4 months old.
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What did Gillian Harris (1990) do and what were her findings?
She found that infants between the ages of 16 and 25 weeks who had only been breastfeed had a preference for salted rather than unsalted cereals.
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What is the explanation of Gillian Harris' findings?
Breast milk is low in salt which suggests that the preference for salt has not been learnt but instead is innate.
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Why is a preference for fat an evolutionary advantage?
high-calorie foods were often not readily available to our ancestors. they're important for survival so a preference for fatty foods ensures that they had enough energy.
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What is another advantage of fat in foods?
Fats increase palatability and appeals to our other senses (e.g. they smell nice)
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What is neophobia?
An innate predisposition to avoid anything new. it is an adaptive behaviour that reduces the risks of unfamiliar situations and objects until we know they are safe.
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When is neophobia more pronounced?
In childhood, between the ages of 2 and 6.
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What did birch suggest about the time it is most pronounced?
This is when children start to explore their environment, so may encounter foods on their own. So they are less likely to consume foods that are dangerous and cause illness, so is adaptive.
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What does neophobia give way to?
Evolutionary mechanisms that encourage a varied diet, giving us greater access to important nutrients.
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Explain the term taste aversion
An innate predisposition to learn to avoid potentially toxic foods, as signalled by a bitter or sour taste.
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Explain Seligman's theory of biological preparedness.
We acquire certain tastes aversions or fears more quickly than others. These are linked to things that posed the greatest threats to our ancestors survival. we're genetically hardwired to learn aversions that make us less likely to eat certain foods
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Garcia and Koelling's rat study: method
They classically conditioned rats to have an aversion to sweetened water using a poison or electric shocks.
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Garcia and Koelling"s rat study: results
They found that the poison was more successful than the electric shock in creating food aversions. But this was swapped when they were classically conditioned to have an aversion to a light or sound rather than a food.
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Garcia and Koelling"s rat study: explanation for findings
They explained this through biological preparedness, a taste aversion is more likely to be a result of poison which is adaptive because it aid survival because it prevents animals and humans from eating foods that could harm them.
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What did Steiner find?
Babies showed negative facial expressions in response to bitter tastes, which occurred before any learning had taken place, this suggests it is a result of an innate mechanism.
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What is the research support for the evolutionary explanation for food preferences?
Torres et al - reviewed relevant studies and found that humans prefer high fat foods when they're stressed. She suggested that this may be to provide fuel for the fight or flight response. This would have provided a survival advantage for ancestors.
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Who proposed an alternative evolutionary explanation for food preferences and what is their explanation?
Joel Alcock suggested food preferences are an adaptive response to gut microbes. He suggested that the gut microbes influenced their host for their own survival. Weerth found evidence for this (colonic babies).
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Explain how people having different taste aversions is an evaluation point.
Drewnowski et al - found that people have different abilities to taste PROP, which seems to be inherited. It is hard for an evolutionary theory to provide an explanation for this because this taste aversion would have benefited our ancestors.
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What is the layer for this evaluation point? (PROP)
The inability to taste the compound may be due to a different evolutionary advantage. some bitter compounds have been shown to protect against cancer, therefore a preference for them would be an adaptive trait.
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How could neophobia be considered maladaptive?
Neophobia used to be adaptive but is not maladaptive. Most of the food we consume now is from a shop and so is safe. therefore neophobia only serves to restrict the variety of children's diet and limit the foods they eat.
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Explain how culture can affect food preferences?
Evolutionary explanations ignore cultural influences, Cashdan suggested that which foods are rejected depends on culture. For example someone from a jewish household may be repulsed by the idea of eating a prawn cocktail. These are hard to change.
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Card 2


What did Steiner (1977) do?


He placed sugar on the tongues of newborns and observed positive facial expressions.

Card 3


What did Steiner (1977) find?


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Card 4


What is the evolutionary explanation for Steiner's findings?


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Card 5


What is the function of salt in animals?


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