Although Social Cognitive Theory (Bandura, 1997) suggests that teacher modeling would be one of the most effective methods to encourage food acceptance by preschool children, opinions of experienced teachers have not yet been sampled, teacher modeling has rarely been examined experimentally, and it has produced inconsistent results. The present study considers opinions of teachers and conditions under which teacher modeling is effective. Study 1 was a questionnaire in which preschool teachers (N=58) were found to rate modeling as the most effective of five teacher actions to encourage children's food acceptance. Study 2 and Study 3 were quasi-experiments that found silent teacher modeling ineffective to encourage either familiar food acceptance (N=34; 18 boys, 16 girls) or new food acceptance (N=23; 13 boys, 10 girls). Children's new food acceptance was greatest in the first meal and then rapidly dropped, suggesting a "novelty response" rather than the expected neophobia. No gender differences were found in response to silent teacher modeling. Study 4 was a repeated-measures quasi-experiment that found enthusiastic teacher modeling ("Mmm! I love mangos!") could maintain new food acceptance across five meals, again with no gender differences in response to teacher modeling (N=26; 12 boys, 14 girls). Study 5 found that with the addition of a competing peer model, however, even enthusiastic teacher modeling was no longer effective to encourage new food acceptance and gender differences appeared, with girls more responsive to the peer model (N=14; 6 boys, 8 girls). Thus, to encourage children's new food acceptance, present results suggest that teachers provide enthusiastic modeling rather than silent modeling, apply such enthusiastic modeling during the first five meals before children's "novelty response" to new foods drops, and avoid placing competing peer models at the same table with picky eaters, especially girls.
Copyright 2000 Academic Press.