ESR10 Food rejections in preschoolers: where it comes from and how it can be modulated (preschoolers)

Photo CC: Joe Urrutia/Nofima

Project within WP6 (and to a lesser extent WP3 and WP7)


(1) To investigate cognitive mechanisms that could contribute to an explanation of food rejections in preschoolers.

(2) To develop innovative eating devices consistent with the developmental characteristics underpinning food rejections. Specific questions: It has been recently shown that food rejections are associated to immature food categories in preschoolers. How can we improve the categorization abilities in preschoolers to facilitate food recognition, familiarity and thus acceptance? Recently, it has been shown that preschoolers have both taxonomic and script categories for food. Taxonomic categories are organized into hierarchies of increasingly abstract categories and are based on common properties or similarity. Script categories are formed when items play the same role in a schema for a routine event. Even if the children are able to categorize both ways, the respective impact of the taxonomic and script categories on food rejections is still unknown. A reasonable hypothesis could be formulated though, on the basis of some parental practices. To overcome food rejections, parents generally tend to trigger a script category in generating a scenario. For instance, the carrot is presented to the child as a flight landing on his/her tongue. The aim of the present project is twofold: i) measuring the respective influence of the ways of categorizing fruits and vegetables on food rejections and ii) then, from science to innovation, developing prototypes in eating device design to facilitate the recognition of these foods which in turn will foster acceptance

Expected Results:

Evidence regarding the influence of the way of categorizing food on food rejections. Innovative prototypes of eating devices based on a fine understanding of the cognitive mechanisms and aiming at facilitating healthy food acceptance. 3 papers submitted.

Planned secondments:

  • Academic secondment in NOFIMA, 2 months, in collaboration with ESR1 in an experiment to (i) better understand methods for assessing the influence of product intrinsic and extrinsic parameters in food choice. (ii) to test the effects of innovative eating device prototypes on food neophobia and pickiness reduction in pre-schoolers (WP7.2). Also, ESR1 will learn from ESR10 work at IPBR with younger children, exchanging on methodological tools for investigation of food categorisation and food rejections.
  • Stanford University (USA) Markman’s lab, Dept. Psychology 4 months
  • Applied secondment in a catering company, 3 months with Elior to study the interaction between social facilitation and food categorization abilities on food rejections in a realistic eating context (school catering)

See this movie with presentation of Abigail



Papers published from thesis

Pickard, A., Thibaut, J. P., & Lafraire, J. (2021). Strawberries and Cream: The Relationship between Food Rejection and Thematic Knowledge of Food in Young Children. Frontiers in Psychology, 12

Paper summaries and blogposts  by ESR10

Strawberries and Cream: The Relationship between Food Rejection and Thematic Knowledge of Food in Young Children

A Fear of Food? Breaking barriers in children’s mistrust for food


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