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With increasing concerns about childhood obesity, knowing what types of children are most at risk of being influenced by external cues could sharpen the focus of caregiver interventions. We hypothesized that extraverted children are more likely to be influenced by environmental cues such as bowl size and are therefore more at risk of overeating.
A within-subject study involving 18 elementary school children ranging from 6-12 years old took place during four subsequent breakfasts. For two of the breakfasts, an adult served the children in either a larger (16-oz) or a smaller (12-oz) bowl. Children were asked to indicate how much cereal and milk they wanted. During the other two breakfasts, the children served themselves. In each condition hidden scales measured the servings.
To measure the extraversion of each child, a group of four attending teachers and counselors were asked to rate each child on the degree to which they were “extraverted” and again on the degree to which they were “introverted.” The averages of the scores were calculated across the four teachers and counselors and were used to classify the children as either an “extravert” or an “introvert.”
Measurements revealed that relatively extraverted children served and consumed 28.9% more grams of cereal than their introverted classmates. Additionally, when all children served themselves, they served and consumed 23.2% more than when an adult served them. Consistent with expectations, introverted children were less sensitive to the size of the bowl than extraverted children when they served themselves. Extraverted children served a significant 33.1% more in the larger bowl than in the smaller bowl. When an adult served the cereal and milk, introverted children became more sensitive to the size of the bowl than extraverted children.
Extraversion may be a critical personality characteristic when examining the susceptibility to environmental cues. When introverted children serve themselves they may be less influenced by environmental cues, such as bowl size. However this resolve disappears when served by a caregiver. In contrast, extraverted children seemingly benefit from having someone else serve their food for them. Since the average child served 23.2% more when serving themselves than when served by an adult, it might be best for caregivers to do the serving whenever possible - but especially for extraverted children.
Van Ittersum, Koert and Wansink, Brian (2013). Extraverted Children Are More Biased by Bowl Sizes than Introverts. PLOS ONE, 8(10), e78224. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0078224