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Discuss the role of one or more factors that influence attitudes to food

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Introduction

Discuss the role of one of more factors that influence attitudes to food: It has been suggested that one factor that influences attitudes to food and eating behaviour is learning. There is evidence to suggest that infants are born with innate food preferences, particularly for sweet foods and display neophobia. However, it appears that neophobia decreases with age and with experience. On the other hand individuals might be influenced through the Social Learning Theory, whereby a person?s eating behaviour is influenced by observing models? eating behaviour. This helps to explain why parents can affect their children?s attitudes to food. Another factor that affects children?s attitudes to food is their parents. In an early study, Duncker (1938) looked at the impact of ?social suggestion? on children?s food choices. The children participants observed a series of role models sampling food that was unfamiliar. The models were other children, a friend, their mother, an unknown adult, and a fictional hero. Duncker found that the children were most likely to sample the food that was modeled by their mothers, indicating that parental behavior and attitudes are an essential part of how children acquire their eating behaviours. Social Learning Theory (SLT) emphasises the impact of observing other peoples? behavior on our own behavior, and is also known as ?modeling? or ?observational learning?. ...read more.

Middle

Opiate drugs that operate in the reward system increased food intake and pleasure, while blocking the endorphin system has been observed to reduce motivation to eat. In addition, research from medical research council cognition and brain sciences unit has shown individual differences in the level of activity in the reward centres of the brain, when participants were presented with varying pictures of food stimuli. When pictures of sweet, desirable foods were shown there was a more pronounced response during fMRI scans (Beaver et al 06). Following this, participants completed a reward sensitivity questionnaire, which assessed their desire to pursue rewards. It was found that participants? willingness to pursue rewards was proportional to the levels of neurological activity observed during scans. So it would seem that there are neurochemical processes that underlie the mood elevating properties of sweet foods, which might predict eating behaviours. There have been studies to support the idea that emotion influences attitudes to food. Garg et al (2007) observed the food choices of 38 participants. One group watched a comedy and the other group watched a sad film. Both groups were offered buttered popcorn and seedless grapes throughout the films. The sad film group had 36% more popcorn than the funny film group. ...read more.

Conclusion

In addition, there are clearly exceptions to factors such as emotion, as not every sad person comfort eats and even those who are not unhappy, still appear to eat fatty and sugary foods and have favourable attitudes towards them. This factor would therefore not be taking individual differences into consideration, therefore making it reductionist. These factors, on the whole seem to be on the nurture side of the Nature vs. Nurture debate. The factor of learning that uses the Social Learning Theory is very clearly nurture based as it relies completely on life experiences. In the same way, classical conditioning can only take place after having experienced a reaction to a certain food, whether that be positive or negative. These factors would therefore be nurture based. Yet, on the other hand there has been evidence to show that an improvement in mood after eating certain foods is linked to neurochemistry, which ultimately is down to your genes. This would make emotion as a factor, on the nature side of the Nature vs. Nurture debate. In addition, it has been proved that our genetics can affect our mood in the sense that people with low serotonin can develop depression, this would serve as further support that emotion as a factor that influences attitudes to food is nature based. ...read more.

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