Associative Conditioning Can Increase Liking for and Consumption of Brussels Sprouts in Children Aged 3 to 5 Years

Published:January 16, 2014DOI:


      Pairing foods with liked flavors repeatedly can increase preferences for those foods. We compared the effectiveness of associative conditioning (pairing vegetables with sweetened and unsweetened cream cheese) and exposure (presenting vegetables alone) in increasing liking and consumption of bitter and nonbitter vegetables. Twenty-nine children (aged 3 to 5 years) participated in the study. One group of children received brussels sprouts (bitter) with sweetened cream cheese and cauliflower (nonbitter) with unsweetened cream cheese and a second group received the reverse pairing. A third group received brussels sprouts and cauliflower with no cream cheese. Pairing brussels sprouts with cream cheese increased liking and consumption more than exposure, whereas cauliflower was liked by all groups regardless of presence of cream cheese. Associative conditioning was more effective than exposure in increasing liking for a novel, bitter vegetable—brussels sprouts—whereas exposure alone was effective for a nonbitter, more familiar vegetable—cauliflower.


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      E. D. Capaldi-Phillips is executive vice president and provost, and a professor of psychology, Department of Psychology, Arizona State University, Tempe.


      D. Wadhera is a postdoctoral research associate, Department of Psychology, Arizona State University, Tempe.