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Rewarding behavior with a sweet food strengthens its valuation


  • Jan M Bauer
  • Marina Schröder
  • Martina Vecchi
  • Tina Bake
  • Suzanne L Dickson
  • Michèle Belot


Sweet foods are commonly used as rewards for desirable behavior, specifically among children. This study examines whether such practice may contribute to reinforce the valuation of these foods. Two experiments were conducted, one with children, the other with rats. The first study, conducted with first graders (n = 214), shows that children who receive a food reward for performing a cognitive task subsequently value the food more compared to a control group who received the same food without performing any task. The second study, conducted on rats (n = 64), shows that rewarding with food also translates into higher calorie intake over a 24-hour period. These results suggest that the common practice of rewarding children with calorie-dense sweet foods is a plausible contributing factor to obesity and might therefore be ill advised.

Suggested Citation

  • Jan M Bauer & Marina Schröder & Martina Vecchi & Tina Bake & Suzanne L Dickson & Michèle Belot, 2021. "Rewarding behavior with a sweet food strengthens its valuation," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 16(4), pages 1-11, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:plo:pone00:0242461
    DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0242461

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    Cited by:

    1. Adamopoulou, Effrosyni & Olivieri, Elisabetta & Triviza, Eleftheria, 2023. "Eating habits, food consumption, and health: The role of early life experiences," ZEW Discussion Papers 23-054, ZEW - Leibniz Centre for European Economic Research.

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