Infants develop expectations about what people prefer to eat, providing early evidence of the social nature through which humans understand food, according to a new study conducted at the University of Chicago.

The study, published this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found infants expect people to share food preferences unless they belong to different social groups. Their understanding changes when it comes to disgust toward a food, with infants expecting such reactions to transcend the boundaries of social groups.

“Even before infants appear to make smart choices about what substances to ingest, they form nuanced expectations that food preferences are fundamentally linked to social groups and social identity,” said Zoe Liberman, a University of California, Santa Barbara assistant professor who completed the research while a UChicago doctoral student.

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