Young children's awareness of socially mediated rejection of food: Why is food dropped at the table "dirty"?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

17 Citations (Scopus)


We sometimes drop food at mealtimes. Once dropped, the food becomes dirty or inedible not only in a physical but also in a social sense. Even without physical contact with contaminants, we may not eat fallen food in some social contexts, e.g., a high-quality restaurant. Such thinking is referred here as "socially mediated rejection." In Study 1, Japanese children were observed during mealtimes at home and at school. Even 2-year-olds reacted to fallen food differently between at school and home. In Study 2, 4- and 6-year-olds and adults were presented several stories in an experiment, and were asked to predict the story character's bodily and emotional reactions to eating fallen food. Preschoolers noticed that physically contaminated food would cause bodily harm more than socially rejected food.



  • Cognitive development
  • Eating behavior
  • Mother-child interaction
  • Naïve biology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology

Cite this