Research in the News: Toddlers take cue from adults about what is safe to eat

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Babies quickly overcome an initial reluctance to handle plants once they see adults put fruit from leafy greens into their mouths. And, according to a new Yale University study, they aren’t fooled when adults pretend to eat similar-looking man-made objects, showing strong preferences for fruit from a plant.

The study shows infants learn about food in similar ways to learning about danger, when parental reactions to things like spiders or snakes minimize or reinforce initial trepidation. “Young children are biased to learn plants are edible based on adults’ positive reactions to them, in this case adults eating fruit right off the plant,’’ said Annie E. Wertz, postdoctoral researcher in psychology and lead author of the study posted Jan. 29 in the journal Psychological Science.

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Bill Hathaway: william.hathaway@yale.edu, 203-432-1322