Food Preferences Are a Learned Behavior; So Are Toy Preferences

You may want to read a fascinating article, "Babies Watching People Eat." It makes the case that food preferences, developed in infancy, are not based upon nutrition or flavor. They come from watching other people eat.

That's according to a study by Katherine Kinzler, a Cornell University associate professor of psychology and human development. Her study found that one-year old babies determine what they like and don't like depending upon the reactions of others eating those foods. 

We found some surprising patterns. If the two people featured acted as if they were friends, or if they spoke the same language, babies expected that the people would prefer the same foods. But if the two people acted as if they were enemies, or if they spoke two different languages, babies expected that they would prefer two different foods.

As I read this I thought back to a study done at City University in London which, unlike the food study, purports to find that children are born with toy preferences. The study by Dr. Brenda Todd has been circulated in a number of media outlets despite, what I find to be, faulty research. You can read about my analysis in my article: "Gender and Toys; why the research is wrong."  

Which one is right? Based upon the fact that the food study used a bigger population (200 participants while the toy study used 90), the overlap in the ages of the participants (toy study used children 9 to 36 months and the food study used one year olds) I find the food study to have more authenticity. More than that, I find the food study to simply make more sense. A child that is 9 months old has already observed and learned behaviors.

So, are preferences in toys based upon nature or nurture? Based upon Dr. Kinzler's study, I vote for nurture.


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