The present study examined the effectiveness of trained peer models to encourage food acceptance in children during preschool meals, and one month later. It also considered whether trained peer models risk the over-justification effects proposed to reduce later food acceptance after reinforcement has been offered for eating a specific food. Three novel foods were presented to eight tables of 38 children during five preschool meals. After three baseline meals, 16 children were trained to serve as peer models of food acceptance for one of the foods in exchange for small toy reinforcements, with each food assigned to either no model, girl model, or boy model conditions during the next two meals. The remaining 22 children served as observers whose food bites were recorded during baseline and modeled meals. Girl models were more effective than boy models to increase food acceptance from baseline to modeled meals for children of either gender. One month later, child interviews measured delayed food acceptance using food preference ratings and number of bites consumed. For observers, delayed food acceptance did not differ according to the food's previous modeling condition, suggesting that effectiveness of trained peer models does not last beyond the modeled meals. Trained peer models gave the highest preference ratings to the specific food they had eaten in exchange for toy reinforcements one month before, and they ate as much of this food as other foods, offering no evidence for detrimental over-justification effects on food acceptance as a result of serving as peer models.
Copyright 2002 Published by Elsevier Science Ltd.