Social Learning: Psychological and Biological Perspectives

By Thomas R. Zentall; Bennett G. Galef Jr. | Go to book overview

titudes to foods. The critical point is that it is very difficult to extract even a simple learning situation in humans from the social context. Consider the followING EPISODE. a solitary person, Milton, opens a carton of chocolate milk and is greeted by the odor of decay. Milton now finds that he can no longer drink chocolate milk, and that it induces nausea (and perhaps, disgust; see Rozin, 1986, for actual examples of this type). This apparently asocial encounter cannot be understood outside of a social context. First of all, the chocolate milk is itself a product of culture, and its presence as an available food is determined by many social factors, some culture-wide, others local (e.g., it was purchased by a friend or family member). More centrally, the odor of decay is not inherently offensive. Decayed milk is acceptable in certain contexts, for example, cheese or yogurt. Milton has learned, probably directly from others, the tradition that chocolate milk shouldn't smell cheese; decay outside of a particular context is disgusting. Milton's disgust response to decay probably dates back to his toilet training, and the association of decay odor with negative displays and attitudes of his caretakers, an inherently social encounter. He is and has been surrounded by social indications of the undesirability of decay, outside of its narrow acceptable context. Therefore, Milton's solitary Pavlovian experience is imbued with social influence. Indeed, there are very few examples of truly nonsocial learning about food; a chapter on social learning about foods in humans is almost equivalent to a chapter on learning about foods.


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

The preparation of this paper was supported by funds from the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Network on the determinants and Consequences of Health-promoting and health-damaging behavior.


REFERENCES

Angyal A, ( 1941). "Disgust and related aversions". Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 36393-412.

Appadurai A. ( 1981). "Gastropolitics in Hindu South Asia". American Ethnologist, 8, 494- 511.

Aronfreed J. A. ( 1968). Conduct & conscince The Socialization of internalized control over behavior. New York: Academic Press.

Beauchamp G., & Moran M. ( 1984). "Acceptance of sweet and salty tastes in 2-year-old children". Appetite, 5, 291-305.

Bem D. ( 1967). "Self-perception: An alternative interpretation of cognitive dissonance phenomena". Psychological Review, 74, 183-200.

Birch L. L. ( 1980a). Effects of peer model's food choices and eating behaviors on preschooler's food preferences. Child Development, 51, 489-96.

Birch L. L. ( 1980b). "The relationship between children's food preferences and those of their parents". Journal of Nutritional Education, 12, 14-18.

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