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Child Dev. 1986 Aug;57(4):1034-9.

The importance of sensory context in young children's acceptance of salty tastes.


Acceptance of and expressed preference for varying levels of salt (NaCl) were assessed among children 3-6 years of age. 20 children received 0, 0.17, and 0.34 M NaCl in aqueous solution, and 20 received these same NaCl concentrations in a soup broth. In both groups, children were asked to ingest as much as they wanted to each stimulus during brief, sequential presentations and to indicate which stimulus they preferred in a series of paired-comparison presentations. A striking, context-specific reaction to the taste of salt was observed on both measures. Children in this age group strongly rejected even the moderate level of salt in water relative to unsalted water. In contrast, the most highly salted soup was well accepted and preferred to either unsalted or moderately salted soup by the majority of children.

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