The Lingering Impact of Negative Food Experiences: Which World War II Veterans Won’t Eat Chinese Food?

  • Brian Wansink
  • Koert van Ittersum
  • Carolina Werle


Does the context in which people first experience a foreign or unfamiliar food shape long-term preferences for that food? While there is abundant research demonstrating the immediate effects of environmental cues on food consumption, research investigating the potential long-term effects of contextual experiences with a food on preference remains scarce. Research generally examines the effect of specific food characteristics and for instance personality characteristics on food preferences, largely ignoring the very first experiences people had with a food. To better understand and predict people’s preferences for different types of foods, it is important to understand the origin of their preferences. To investigate this, in the present chapter, we rely on unique data on food preferences among soldiers involved in World War II. More specifically, we examine whether the trauma of combat shaped veterans’ preferences for Japanese and Chinese food based on a survey among 493 American veterans of World War II. Pacific veterans who experienced high levels of combat had a stronger dislike for these Asian foods than those Pacific veterans experiencing lower levels of combat. Consistent with expectations, combat experience for European veterans had no impact on their preference for Asian food. The situation in which one is initially exposed to an unfamiliar food may long continue to shape preferences, in the context of this research up to 60 years.


Food Preference Favorite Food Chinese Food Combat Experience Abundant Research 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Meal-Ready-to-Eat is a self-contained, individual field ration in lightweight packaging bought by the United States military for its service-members for use in combat or other field conditions where organized food facilities are not available


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Brian Wansink
    • 1
  • Koert van Ittersum
  • Carolina Werle
  1. 1.Cornell UniversityIthacaUSA

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