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Department of Psychological Sciences

Teri McCann, Ph.D.

Advisor: Dr. Leon Rappoport

Dissertation Title

Food cognition among grade school children

Dissertation Abstract

Ninety-five midwestern students ranging in age from seven to twelve were given questionnaires soliciting their evaluations of 15 typical menu items. Subjects also evaluated breakfasts, lunches, and dinners actually consumed in a manner consistent with the initial assessment procedure. The menu item questionnaire presented a list of 15 meals or "dishes" made up of five breakfasts, lunches, and suppers. For menu items and foods actually consumed, each meal was rated on a five point scale according to its pleasure/taste value, health value, and convenience value.

Age-graded and normative analyses were conducted to test specific hypotheses exploring how food cognition develops across childhood. Regression analyses indicated that food cognition schemas based on the preference ratings of groups and arranged in the form of prediction equations significantly predicted preference ratings of menu items. This finding held for the prediction of groups' preferences for foods actually consumed. In a similar manner, within-person regression analyses supported that food cognition schemas predict preference of a single individual for menu items. There was little support for the hypothesis that cognitive schemas based on preference ratings of individuals significantly predicted preference rating of individuals for food actually consumed.

Comparisons between age groups indicated that older females are more likely than same-aged or younger subjects to prefer to consume foods they perceive as healthy. Contrary to what was expected, sixth graders had the most negative relationship between their health ratings and those of expert raters.

Normative prediction equations provided preference patterns for each of the 15 menu items. Although pleasure consistently makes the most significant contribution to the prediction of preference, there are cases in which health and convenience make significant contributions. Differences in the preference patterns of males and females for particular menu items were difficult to interpret.

Finally, the findings of the present research are related to specific goals for more appropriate nutrition education programs and general conclusions and implications for future research are enumerated.


Ph.D., Psychology, Kansas State University, 1992