Babies Learn Social Cues at Mealtime

What Do Babies Learn at a Dinner Table?

A new study showed that babies learn a lot more when they play with their food during mealtime.

According to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, babies are perceptive about food served at the table and are observant of people during mealtime.

This new finding compliments a growing body of research that suggests that babies think in sophisticated ways about subtle social cues.

The Findings

Katherine Kinzler, a co-author of the study and an associate professor of psychology and human development at Cornell University found that 1-year-olds expect people to like the same foods particularly those who speak the same language. In contrast, toddlers expect those people belonging to different social or cultural groups to like different food. This study affirms the notion that food choices are coupled with social thinking.

In addition, the study revealed that kids are sensitive to cultural groups early in life. This explains that when babies see someone eat, they are learning many things. They are learning about food and at the same time they are also learning about who eats what with whom. Interestingly, an ability to think about people as being same versus different starts very early in life.

Aside from that, the study showed that babies are vigilant to social information that may signal danger.

The Study

Kinzler together with a powerhouse of other researchers, Zoe Liberman, Amanda Woodward and Kathleen Sullivan, conducted a series of studies in which they showed more than 200 1-year-olds a series of videos of people expressing like or dislike of foods.

The outcomes are interesting. When the babies saw two people in the video speak the same language or act as if they were friends, the children expected them to like the same foods. In contrast, when babies saw two people who spoke different languages or acted as if they were not friends, the babies expected them to like different foods.

The study affirms a prominent fact in developmental psychology that babies will look longer at new actions or things that differ from their general expectations of the world.

A baby eating a cake.
A baby eating a cake.

Take Note of This!

Since babies are learning many things during mealtime, parents should be careful what they are eating. This is better illustrated in a way that even if parents feed their child a nutritious diet, yet they see people in the house eating junk food, babies can learn that social experience.

Mina Fabulous
Mina Fabulous follows the news, especially what is going on in the US State Department. Mina turns State Department waffle into plain English. Mina Fabulous is the pen name of Carmen Avalino, the NewsBlaze production editor. When she isn't preparing stories for NewsBlaze writers, she writes stories, but to separate her editing and writing identities, she uses the name given by her family and friends.