British Journal of Nutrition

Full Papers

Behaviour, Appetite and Obesity

Repetition counts: repeated exposure increases intake of a novel vegetable in UK pre-school children compared to flavour–flavour and flavour–nutrient learning

Samantha J. Catona1, Sara M. Aherna1, Eloise Remya2, Sophie Nicklausa2, Pam Blundella1 and Marion M. Hetheringtona1 c1

a1 Institute of Psychological Sciences, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK

a2 INRA, UMR1324, Centre des Sciences du Goût et de l'Alimentation, F-21000 Dijon, France


Children are not consuming sufficient amounts of fruits and vegetables in their habitual diet. Methods derived from associative learning theories could be effective at promoting vegetable intake in pre-school children. The objective of the present study was to compare the effectiveness of different learning strategies in promoting the intake of a novel vegetable. Children aged between 9 and 38 months were recruited from UK nurseries. The children (n 72) were randomly assigned to one of three conditions (repeated exposure, flavour–flavour learning or flavour–nutrient learning). Each child was offered ten exposures to their respective version of a novel vegetable (artichoke). Pre- and post-intervention measures of artichoke purée and carrot purée (control vegetable) intake were taken. At pre-intervention, carrot intake was significantly higher than artichoke intake (P< 0·05). Intake of both vegetables increased over time (P< 0·001); however, when changes in intake were investigated, artichoke intake increased significantly more than carrot intake (P< 0·001). Artichoke intake increased to the same extent in all three conditions, and this effect was persistent up to 5 weeks post-intervention. Five exposures were sufficient to increase intake compared to the first exposure (P< 0·001). Repeated exposure to three variants of a novel vegetable was sufficient to increase intake of this vegetable, regardless of the addition of a familiar taste or energy. Repetition is therefore a critical factor for promoting novel vegetable intake in pre-school children.

(Received March 29 2012)

(Revised July 26 2012)

(Accepted July 26 2012)

(Online publication October 30 2012)

Key Words:

  • Repeated exposure;
  • Vegetable intake;
  • Learning mechanisms;
  • Pre-school children


c1 Corresponding author: Professor M. M. Hetherington, E-mail:


  Abbreviations: FFL, flavour–flavour learning; FNL, flavour–nutrient learning; RE, repeated exposure