The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has spent nearly $1.5 million studying how infants think about food.
The project, “Infants’ and Children’s Reasoning About Foods,” is being conducted by the University of Chicago and so far has determined that young children would rather not eat food that someone has licked or sneezed on.
“Good nutrition is important for health and longevity, yet many Americans do not consume nutritionally sound diets,” according to the grant for the project. “Evidence suggests that infants’ and children’s earliest patterns of eating have lasting consequences for health across the lifespan.”
The premise for the study is that there is a dearth of research about how babies think about eating.
“Despite the complexity and significance of food selection, developmental psychologists have devoted surprisingly little attention to studying how infants and children perceive, learn, and reason about foods,” the grant said. “The current proposal employs methods from cognitive development to test social influences on infants’ and children’s food choices and consumption.”
The researchers characterize infants as having “limited knowledge in the food domain.” Children aged three to six years old are “more knowledgeable than infants and toddlers about foods” but are “notoriously picky eaters.”