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Rapid categorization of food and nonfood items by 3- to 4-year-old children

Abstract : We assessed young children's ability to discriminate visually between food and nonfood items, and the possible relationship between this ability and their level of food neophobia. A sample of 42 children, aged 36–53 months, performed a rapid categorization task in which they were shown a series of color photographs of food and nonfood items, each displayed for 80 ms. Their task was to say as quickly as possible whether or not each item was edible. We measured both accuracy (hits, false alarms, discriminability) and response times. The children's food neophobia score was assessed on a standardized scale. Results indicated that children had a high rate of hits (81%), but also a high rate of false alarms (50%). Discriminability and neophobia both increased with chronological age, and response times decreased. There were no significant correlations between categorization performances and food neophobia scores after controlling for age effects. We conclude that children aged 3–4 years have a liberal food categoriza-tion system, accepting large numbers of nonfood items as edible.
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Jérémie Lafraire, Camille Rioux, Jérémy Roque, Agnès Giboreau, Delphine Picard. Rapid categorization of food and nonfood items by 3- to 4-year-old children. Food Quality and Preference, Elsevier, 2016, 49, pp.87 - 91. ⟨10.1016/j.foodqual.2015.12.003⟩. ⟨hal-01464655⟩

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