Imagine you’re a Wild Vervet monkey family living in South Africa. 

One day you come across two tubs of corn. One tub contains pink corn. The other tub contains blue corn.

  • You taste the pink corn. It’s goooood.
  • You taste the blue corn. It’s baaaaad.

You chow down on the pink corn.

The next day you stumble upon the corn again. 

  • You taste the pink corn. It’s goooood.
  • You taste the blue corn. It’s baaaaad.

You chow down on the pink corn again!

After awhile, you stop tasting the blue corn.

Your baby monkeys avoid the blue corn too. In fact, they never even try it!

Then, one day, you find yourself into another part of the forest. Here, the monkeys are eating the blue corn and avoiding the pink corn.

Oh No!!! The world has been turned upside down. Do you panic? Run back to your part of the forest? No way. Instead:

  • You eat the blue corn. It’s goooood.
  • You don’t even taste the pink corn.

You don’t even taste the pink corn. Why? You think, “These monkeys must know a thing or two!” So, when in Rome, do as the Romans…

This is a REAL Study.

Researchers alternated between soaking either the pink or the blue corn with aloe to make it taste bitter. Read Monkeys Are Adept at Picking Up Social Cues, Research Shows.

But here’s the catch: After the monkeys discovered which color was bitter, the researchers stopped treating it.

That meant that both the blue and the pink corn tasted like, well, corn. And the monkeys could have eaten from either tub.

But it didn’t matter. 

  • Once the monkeys learned which color tasted bad, they avoided it. Makes sense. Right?
  • Until, that is, the monkeys traveled to another neighborhood and saw other monkeys enjoying the “bad” colored corn. Then, they relinquished their color convictions.

What’s the takeaway? Context matters.

If your monkeys see you avoiding certain foods, they’ll avoid them too. That’s why modeling matters. But it also explains why modeling isn’t always enough. Read The Modeling Muddle.

Culture matters.

Taste preferencs are formed, not found. Change the environment and you can change how your monkeys eat. (And you can do this without traveling.)

This is one reason your monkeys will sometimes eat a hated food at someone else’s home. Read Food Culture and What it Means to be “Child-Friendly” and Not All Children LOVE Sugary, Salty, Fatty Foods.

Habits matter.

It’s the rare monkey who will taste something after it’s been deemed “disgusting.” Read 10 Ways to Add Variety to Your Children’s Diets.

Monkeys are smarter than we think!

And children are a lot like monkeys!

It’s something to think about.

Maybe even to read about!

I discuss all of these ideas in It’s Not About the Broccoli.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~