If you want your baby to love broccoli, you better love it, too, because that tiny human is watching you to learn which foods are good and bad. That’s one of the takeaways in a new paper by a UC Santa Barbara researcher who investigated the way infants reason in socially smart ways about food.
“A main finding from this research is that babies learning about food is fundamentally social. When they see someone eat a food, they can use the person’s reaction to the food to learn about the food itself, such as whether it is edible, and also to learn about the people who are eating the food,” said Zoe Liberman, an assistant professor in UCSB’s Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences. Past studies, she noted, suggested that babies weren’t especially smart thinkers when it came to food. As any parent will tell you, they’ll put just about anything in their mouths, even if it’s poisonous.