'The effect of sensory sensitivity, autistic traits and food neophobia on adult food choices'

Frankland 305
Life and Environmental Sciences, Research
Wednesday 27th May 2015 (10:00-11:00)
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Part of the Ingestive Behaviour Seminar Series

Speaker: Maria Pomoni, University of Birmingham


Individuals with higher neophobia scores tend to follow a less varied diet (Falciglia et al., 2000) and may present with a lower fruit and vegetable intake (Galloway et al. 2003).

Little is known about how food neophobia affects adults’ vegetable preferences and more specifically whether a liked taste or a familiar texture is more likely to affect the willingness to try familiar vegetables. It could be that changes to local details of food (e.g. texture, way of presentation, presence ofblemishes) contribute differently to the willingness to try vegetables. Previous research has revealed that individuals with autism spectrum conditions (ASC) may present with unusual sensory processing (Kern et al., 2006; 2007b). It remains to be investigated how food neophobia, autistic traits and sensory processing difficulties interfere with the willingness to try food.

In this study detailed information was collected for a sample of 77 young adults ( 53 females,  24 males) aged 17-35 regarding their vegetable consumption.  This allowed the research tasks to be tailored to participants vegetable preferences. The first task aimed to explore whether taste (liked-disliked) or texture (familiar-unfamiliar) was more likely to affect participants’ willingness to try a vegetable option. The second task looked into whether a blemish or a different texture functions as a more powerful visual indicator to dissuade someone from trying a vegetable.

The aim of the research was to explore the role that sensory processing, Autism Quotient scores (Baron-Cohen et al. 2001)  and food neophobia play in the willingness to try the vegetable options offered in this study.