All humans reportedly possess a natural characteristic that can help explain why we can "learn" to love foods and things we once hated. While it’s common for young children to hate spicy foods, coffee or alcohol, we can learn to like the taste of things that our bodies are designed to reject in our younger years.
It's A Human Characteristic
Paul Rozin, a cultural psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, has looked in the phenomena of "benign masochism" – the idea that our bodies reject certain things such as amusement rides or sad movies.
And while we know these things can’t hurt us, what causes us to initially reject them is less easy to determine. Rozin, who was recently interviewed by Alison Bruzek of NPR’s The Salt blog, believes that most of these behaviors are likely to be the result of social pressures.
"I don’t know the answer," he admitted in the interview. "Some part of it is social. Social forces affect what we like, and the advertising industry knows that — that’s why they have endorsements by famous people."
The amount we are exposed to certain foods can also play a vital role. Rozin discussed during the interview how young children in Mexico didn’t inherently love spicy chillies, but grew to appreciate them by around the age of 4 or 5 years old.
"The experience of eating it a lot somehow converts what was an aversion to a preference."
Another term Rozin coined to describe such phenomenon was "hedonistic reversal," the ability that our brain holds to tell our senses that we’re going to turn something we ought to avoid into a preference.
So if your child is avoiding eating their peas or carrots now, don't worry just yet! Things might not stay that way as they mature.