Food Neophobia and Sensation Seeking

  • Thomas R. Alley
  • Kathleen A. Potter


Humans consume an omnivorous diet with seemingly limitless food options. In our evolutionary past, it was advantageous to be cautious when selecting what to eat as many unfamiliar items could be harmful. As such, a fear of unfamiliar foods, or food neophobia, was protective. However, in modern cultures where most food items are relatively safe, food neophobia may be less adaptive, yet it still has a substantial and often negative impact on the dietary intake of both children and adults. For example, individuals with higher levels of food neophobia consume less varied diets and consume a lesser amount/selection of vegetables, fruits, and meats. Research reveals sizable and, to some extent, predictable individual differences in food neophobia. This chapter presents a review of food neophobia as it influences food choice, preferences, and diet. In addition, several factors that have an effect on food neophobia – including age, genetics, sex, and sensation seeking – are examined. The influence of diet on food neophobia is also examined. Food neophobia, a reluctance to eat unfamiliar foods, is a common trait that has been widely studied in birds and mammals. Humans are among the many species that display food neophobia, and despite the relative safety and availability of most food items in modern society, uncertainty about unfamiliar foods continues to have an important impact on dietary intake. Research on humans has revealed sizable and, to some extent, predictable individual differences in the prevalence and severity of food neophobia. One particularly notable predictor is the personality trait of sensation seeking (SS), simply defined as a person’s willingness to take risks in order seek out novel or intense stimuli. This chapter presents a review of food neophobia as it influences food choice and diet, and examines the role of sensation seeking as well as several other factors that have an effect on food neophobia, such as age and sex.


Food Item Food Choice Sensation Seek Spicy Food Good Food Source 
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.



Arnett Inventory of Sensation Seeking


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


Food Attitude Survey


Food Neophobia Scale


Food Neophobia Scale for Children


Food Situations Questionnaire


Sensation Seeking


Sensation Seeking Scale


Unknown Flavor Sampling Test


Variety Seeking Tendency Scale


Willingness to Taste Novel Food test


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyClemson UniversityClemsonUSA

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