Young children's understanding of food and nonfood objects : appearance-reality distinctions
Krause, Christina M.
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The purpose of this study was to examine preschool children's understanding of what objects are appropriate to eat. Children's understanding of two types of objects was examined, deceptive objects (objects that look like food but are not food) and nondeceptive objects (food and nonfood objects). Forty-eight 3- to 5-year-olds were asked three questions about each of 18 objects: an appearance question (what the object looked like), a reality question (whether the object was really what it appeared to be), and an edibleness question (whether it would be okay to eat the object). Three primary issues were addressed. First, do young children understand the edibleness of nondeceptive objects? Second, do young children understand the deceptive objects as well as they understand the nondeceptive objects? Third, is there a relation between understanding the reality of deceptive objects and understanding the edibleness of these objects? The results indicate that young children, especially 3-year-olds, do not always make the appropriate decision when judging the edibleness of the nondeceptive objects. In general, the children did not understand the deceptive objects as well as they understood the nondeceptive objects. Preschool children are often confused by deceptive objects that look like food and indicate that it would be okay to eat these objects. Their confusion is tied to understanding the reality of objects. The children who understood the reality of the deceptive objects were better at judging the edibleness of these objects than the children who did not consistently understand the reality of the deceptive objects. Children's lack of understanding indicates that young children may be at risk for ingesting deceptive objects that appear to be food.