Three experiments evaluated the basis of associational contamination thinking among Japanese college students and 4- and 7-year-old children. "Associational contamination thinking" is the belief that mere proximity between a contaminant and a substance will render the substance noxious even without direct contact between contaminants and substances. In Experiment 1, 7-year-olds and adults engaged in associational contamination thinking more often for disgusting (feces and roaches) and dangerous (poison and O-157) contaminants than for taste contaminants (salt and sugar). However, 4-year-olds' predictions were not different among the three types of contaminants. In Experiment 2, when contaminants were assumed to have some biological properties, both adults and 7-year-olds were somewhat more likely to engage in associational contamination thinking; however, such a relation was not found in 4-year-olds. Younger children's similar thinking with related to all contaminants was not attributable to ignorance of the necessity of physical contact. Instead, it appeared to be due in part to overreliance on perceptual cues, as was suggested in Experiment 3.
ASJC Scopus subject areas