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Appetite. 2003 Dec;41(3):283-9.

Habituation of salivation and motivated responding for food in children.

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Department of Pediatrics, School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, State University of New York at Buffalo, Farber Hall, Room G56, 3435 Main Street, Building #26, Buffalo, NY 14214-3000, USA.


Repeated presentation of food cues results in habituation in adults, as demonstrated by a decrement in salivary responding that is reversed by presenting a new food cue in adults. Food reinforced behavior in animals shows the same pattern of responding, with a decrease in responding to obtain the food, followed by a recovery of responding when a new food is presented. The present study assessed whether children would show the same pattern of a decrement of food reinforced responding followed by recovery of responding when a new food is presented for both salivation and food reinforcement tasks. Subjects were assigned to one of two groups that differed in the trial that the new food stimulus was presented to ensure recovery was specific to the introduction of the new food stimulus. In the salivation task, subjects were provided repeated olfactory presentations of a cheeseburger with apple pie as the new food stimulus, while in the food reinforcement task subjects worked for the opportunity to consume a cheeseburger, followed by the opportunity to work for consumption of apple pie. Subjects in both groups showed a decrement in salivary and food reinforced responding to repeated food cues followed by immediate recovery of responding on the trial when a new food was presented. Subjects increased their energy intake by over 30% in the food reinforcement task when a new food was presented. These results are consistent with the general process theory of motivation that suggests that changes in food reinforced responding may be due in part to habituation.

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