New thesis on conceptual knowledge about food and links to food rejection

On the 25th of October, Abigail Pickard defended her  thesis “Spilling the beans: The development of conceptual knowledge about food and its links with food rejection in young children (3-7-years-old)” . She has investigated how cognitive mechanisms play a role in acceptance or rejecting foods. We congratulate on the excellent work, and wish her well for the future.  Her research focused on

  • At which age children acquire certain types of knowledge and categories in the food domain. This could be related to understanding functional and co-occurring food relations (i.e. soup and spoon), or what to expect for breakfast for instance (“scripts”)
  • How food rejections influence the knowledge acquisitions

Her findings provide evidence that educating children about conceptual knowledge and food norms can be an effective strategy for increasing familiarity and promoting greater food acceptance. The research suggests opportunities for development psychologist and public health professionals to improve children’s knowledge of food and foster increased dietary variety. For a more detailed summary, please see this pdf

Supervisors: Dr. Jérémie Lafraire (Institut Paul Bocuse Research Centre), Prof. Jean-Pierre Thibaut (University of Burgundy)

Institution: Université Bourgogne Franche-Comté and INRAE Dijon,  Institut Paul Bocuse

Placement of secondment: Stanford University

Committee:  Prof. Susan Gelman, PhD, (University of Michigan), Prof. Carmel Houston Price, PhD (School of Psychology & Clinical Language Sciences at the University of Reading), Prof. Florence Labrell, PhD (INSHEA), Prof. Dominique Valentin, PhD (AgroSup Dijon),

Prof. Jean-Pierre Thibaut, PhD, is a professor of developmental psychology at the University of Burgundy, investigating food cognition in children.

Papers included in the 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

The thesis will be publicly available later this year.

Abigail Pickard has already made the next step in her carrier, and has  recently begun a three year postdoctoral research position on the APPETItE study: Appetite in Preschoolers:Producing Evidence to Tailor InTerventions Effectively. The project is  led by Professor Blisset affiliated with Aston University.This 3 yr ESRC funded project is examining why some children are more susceptible to development of obesity than others and working with Aston Institute of Health & Neurodevelopment, University College London, King’s College London and Loughborough University. At the end of this project the researchers will share advice & support useful for families of children with avid appetites.



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