Interpretation bias in food neophobia

We all know at least one person who is very specific when it comes to what they eat. When having dinner with them, it is always safest to stick to what they are already familiar with and unusual foods tend to be considered with a very sceptical eye.

People with such attitudes towards foods are said to have what is known as “food neophobia”. This means that they are afraid to try novel foods. Reasons for such fear may be that the person wants to protect themselves from unwanted consequences that eating such food may have. For example, they may dislike the taste or texture or even become sick when consuming it.

One bias that plays a huge role in food neophobia is interpretation bias.  Interpretation bias is an information-processing bias, the tendency to inappropriately analyze ambiguous stimuli, scenarios and events. In the case of trying novel foods, which for some is an ambiguous scenario, you can imagine that their interpretation is important. Someone who has food neophobia is likely to view a situation like that as negative, resulting in a negative interpretation bias. Their willingness to try novel food goes down. But if this works one way, would it work the other way around as well? What if we could modify the interpretation in a positive way? If a change in a person’s mindset could make them have more positive thoughts and interpretations of general ambiguous situations, could this also be the case for a persons’ attitude toward food? In our study this is exactly what we are testing so check the updates of our study to find out the answers to these questions.

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