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Bloomsbury Food Library Lesson Plans

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Lesson plan

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Literature of Food

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An Interdisciplinary Approach to the Psychology of Food and Culture

An Interdisciplinary Approach to the Psychology of Food and Culture
DOI: 10.5040/9781474208802.0002

  • Publisher:
    Bloomsbury Publishing
  • Identifier:
    b-9781474208802-02
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Introduction

The psychology of food and culture is remarkably complex and is explored in this course through an interdisciplinary approach. As everything psychological is simultaneously biological, the role of evolutionary pressures and biopsychological forces provides the foundation to explore complex psychological processes, such as sensation and perception, learning and cognition, and human development. Application of this knowledge illuminates contemporary topics, including the scope and consequences of the obesity epidemic, the etiology of eating disorders, controversies in food policy, and the ways human psychology and culture inspire cuisine.

Learning Objectives

  1. Critically analyze research findings and claims regarding food and eating to assess for validity and to distinguish from popular and pseudoscientific claims.

  2. Describe the influences of metabolism and the brain in regulation of feeding behavior.

  3. Identify and apply key concepts and psychological processes responsible for regulating our eating habits and behaviors.

  4. Contextualize psychological theories and methodologies among other disciplinary approaches in the social and natural sciences.

Unit Outline

This eight-module lesson plan is intended for a full semester or academic term. The content is aimed toward upper-level undergraduates or graduate students in psychology, food studies, health, and related disciplines (such as sociology and anthropology).

Assigned readings, materials, and discussion questions are detailed below. Each lesson includes a homework assignment (with referenced supplementary materials) meant to inspire discussion for the next class meeting. The assessment options for each lesson are detailed; an instructor may choose to use them for an exam, as a homework assignment, writing prompt, or for class discussion.

Lesson 1

Introduction – Explorations of Human History

Core texts to be read before the lesson

Miller, Jeff & Deutsch, Jonathan. “What is Research” in Food Studies: An Introduction to Research Methods, Bloomsbury Food Library, 2009. DOI: 10.5040/9781350047679-ch-002

Wrangham, R. & Carmody, R. (2010), “Human Adaptation to the Control of Fire,” Evolutionary Anthropology, 19: 187–199.

Discussion questions

Miller & Deutsch: Design a research question involving the psychology of food (e.g., Do people eat out more than before?); compare the strengths and limitations of studying this question through various methods of inquiry.

Wrangham & Carmody: How might a foraging animal maximize energy gains while minimizing energy costs? What are the anatomical and physiological differences between humans and primates that do not cook their food? How might the use of fire contribute to shared meaning, community, and culture? What conclusions can you draw about the fad of raw-food diets?

Homework

  • Define the term pseudoscience and find an example related to food or health (Chaffee & Cook, 2017).

  • Use a nutrition tracking app or website to enter foods consumed for one week – this data is required for a later assignment.

Lesson 2

The Role of Metabolism and Biology in the Psychology of Eating

Core texts to be read before the lesson

Blundell, John, Dalton, Michelle, & Finlayson, Graham. “Appetite and Satiety – A Psychobiological Approach” in The Handbook of Food Research by Anne Murcott, Warren Belasco and Peter Jackson, Bloomsbury Food Library, 2013. DOI: 10.5040/9781350042261-ch-0017

Zheng, H. & Berthoud, H-R. (2007), “Eating for Pleasure or Calories,” Current Opinion in Pharmacology, 7(6): 607–612.

Discussion questions

Blundell et al.: Describe the interaction between biology and environment in the control of appetite. How do liking and wanting differentially influence drive to eat?

Zheng & Berthoud: Why do increased leptin levels fail to prevent obesity? How is the processing of food-related stimuli influenced by metabolic signals? How does reward hijack the homeostatic processes?

Homework

  • What are the problems with the set-point assumption of weight regulation? How does this assumption influence popular understanding of dieting? (Aamodt, 2016)

Lesson 3

Taste, Smell, and Flavor

Core texts to be read before the lesson

Spence, Charles. “The Neuroscience of Flavor” in Food and Museums by Nina Levent and Irina D. Mihalache, Bloomsbury Food Library, 2016. DOI: 10.5040/9781474262279.ch-004

Lehrer, Jonah, “Auguste Escoffier, The Essence of Taste” in Proust was a Neuroscientist, New York: First Mariner Books, 2007.

Discussion questions

Spence: Describe the processes of gustation and olfaction, and the ways they combine to form flavor. How do external forces (branding and pricing) influence flavor perception?

Lehrer: Which of the primary tastants did Escoffier focus on? What are the binding and parsing problems in understanding flavor? Describe subjective influences on taste and flavor.

Homework

  • What kind of taster are you? Read Fadiman and make a prediction. Instructor may choose to use taste strips to confirm predictions.

Lesson 4

Kids: Eating and Development

Core text to be read before the lesson

Birch, L.L. (1999), “Development of Food Preferences,” Annual Reviews in Nutrition, 19: 41–62.

Discussion questions

Birch: Describe the universal preferences present from birth and early childhood? What is the neophobic response and how might it be reduced?

Culture: How can culture influence food preferences in children? Brainstorm specific examples.

School lunches: Describe a typical school lunch. How might school lunches be improved? Contrast examples of school lunches across the world (supplementary materials).

Homework

  • How can our knowledge of development, from the prenatal environment through childhood, inform prevention strategies for obesity?

Lesson 5

Choice, Preference, and Memory

Core texts to be read before the lesson

Rozin, Paul. “The Psychology of Food and Food Choice” in The Cambridge World History of Food by Kenneth F. Kiple and Kriemhild Coneé Ornelas, Bloomsbury Food Library, 2000. https://www.bloomsburyfoodlibrary.com/encyclopedia-chapter?docid=b-9781474208710&tocid=b-9781474208710-icm00000c150&st=The+Psychology+of+Food+and+Food+Choice

Cargill, Kima. “Hyperpalatable Foods, Hormones, and Addiction” in The Psychology of Overeating, Bloomsbury Food Library, 2015. DOI: 10.5040/9781474267670.ch-007

Discussion questions

Review: Describe nonhomeostatic influences on food choice such as subjective influences on flavor and development of food preferences.

Rozin: How do humans use implicit and explicit categories to navigate the food environment? Form an example of conditioned taste aversion. Describe psychological aspects of food selection.

Cargill: Can food be addictive? Describe the nature of hyperpalatable foods and their influences on the regulation of food intake.

Homework

  • Further explore the potential for food to be addictive, and compare the addictive potential of food with cigarettes (Criscitelli & Avena, 2016).

Lesson 6

Culture, Cuisine, and Identity

Core texts to be read before the lesson

Counihan, Carol. “The Social and Cultural Uses of Food” in The Cambridge World History of Food by Kenneth F. Kiple and Kriemhild Coneé Ornelas, Bloomsbury Food Library, 2000. https://www.bloomsburyfoodlibrary.com/encyclopedia-chapter?docid=b-9781474208710&tocid=b-9781474208710-icm00000c153&st=The+Social+and+Cultural+Uses+of+Food

Balesco, Warren. “Identity: Are We What We Eat?” in Food: The Key Concepts, Bloomsbury Food Library, 2008. DOI: 10.5040/9781350042148-ch-002

Discussion questions

Counihan: Identify several interactions of food and culture in which the meaning of the food is symbolic.

Balesco: Describe an example of a specific cuisine with flavor principles and example of a culture with more varied cuisine.

Homework

  • Some cuisines are characterized by food or flavor principles that serve a purpose (contribute to survival). Identify one example of this preference with purpose (Billings & Sherman, 1999).

Lesson 7

Disordered Eating and Obesity

Core texts to be read before the lesson

Ogden, Jane. “Eating Disorders and Obesity: Symptoms of a Modern World” in The Handbook of Food Research by Anne Murcott, Warren Balesco, and Peter Jackson, Bloomsbury Food Library, 2013. DOI: 10.5040/9781350042261-ch-0027

Malik, V.S. et al. (2013), “Global Obesity: Trends, Risk Factors, and Policy Implications,” Nature Reviews Endocrinology, 9: 13–27.

Discussion questions

Ogden: How does the modern environment contribute to the development of obesity and disordered eating? Describe the individual influences, including cognitions, development, and dieting. How might treatment programs for obesity and eating disorders target these factors?

Malik: Describe prevalence of obesity and related health costs. How does globalization contribute to obesity? Describe implications for policy.

Homework

  • Are diets effective for treating obesity? Describe their limitations (Rousseau, 2013; Nestle, 2000).

Lesson 8

Geopolitics

Core texts to be read before the lesson

Brown, L. “The New Geopolitics of Food Scarcity” http://www.utne.com/environment/food-scarcity-zm0z13jfzwil.aspx (January/February 2013).

Nestle, Marion. “Food Lobbies and U.S. Dietary Policy” in The Cambridge World History of Food by Kenneth F. Kiple and Kriemhild Coneé Ornelas, Bloomsbury Food Library, 2000. https://www.bloomsburyfoodlibrary.com/encyclopedia-chapter?docid=b-9781474208710&tocid=b-9781474208710-icm00000c163&st=Food+Lobbies+and+U.S.+Dietary+Policy

Discussion questions

Brown: Describe the changes in food commodity prices and the sources of grain demand growth. What percentage of income is spent on food in developed versus developing countries?

Nestle: How are the dietary guidelines biased? Describe the influence of lobbies. Can this system be improved?

Homework

  • Explore the food library to determine the relationship between hunger and conflict. Instructor may consider assigning a variety of historical cases of hunger due to war.

  • Return to your nutrition data from Lesson 1 – identify individual and societal influences on food choices.

Assessment Options

Lesson 1

  • Select a research question to explore a topic of interest in the psychology of eating (instructor prompts with ideas). State the hypothesis, research design, methods and participants, potential implications, and limitations of the study.

Lesson 2

  • Diagram a combination of central and peripheral factors for the regulation of intake, including signals of hunger and satiety. Identify homeostatic and nonhomeostatic influences on food intake.

Lesson 3

  • Identify the primary tastants and their critical purpose. How does the process of sensing taste contribute to the complex perception of flavor?

Lesson 4

  • Describe best practices for parents or caregivers feeding a small child, from age two through seven. How might a parent or caregiver increase variety in their child's diet?

Lesson 5

  • Humans use categories to simplify the world. Provide examples of categories related to food—for instance cultural or personal restraints, implicit versus explicit categorizations.

    Describe the interaction of the reward system and biology on appetite and eating.

Lesson 6

  • Provide a definition for cuisine. How do expressions of power exert themselves through cuisine?

Lesson 7

  • Use the biopsychosocial approach to explain the development of eating disorders and obesity, considering the social and individual perspectives.

Lesson 8

  • Why are the government issued nutrition recommendations typically more complicated than the evidence-based recommendations?

  • Describe food security and three specific causes of food insecurity.

Further Reading

E-books in the Bloomsbury Food Library

Balesco, Warren. Food: The Key Concepts. Oxford: Berg, 2008. DOI: 10.5040/9781350042148

Cargill, Kima. The Psychology of Overeating . London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2015. DOI: 10.5040/9781474267670

Lien, Marianne & Nerlich, Brigitte, eds. The Politics of Food. Oxford: Berg, 2004. DOI: 10.5040/9781350044906

Murcott, Anne, Balesco, Warren & Jackson, Peter, eds. The Handbook of Food Research . London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2013. DOI: 10.5040/9781350042261

Articles in the Bloomsbury Food Library

Draper, H. H. “Human Nutrition Adaptation: Biological and Cultural Aspects” in The Cambridge World History of Food, 2000. https://www.bloomsburyfoodlibrary.com/encyclopedia-chapter?docid=b-9781474208710&tocid=b-9781474208710-icm00000c149&st=Human+Nutrition+Adaptation%3A+Biological+and+Cultural+Aspects

Gardner, Brian. “Access to Food” in Global Food Futures: Feeding the World in 2050, 2013. DOI: 10.5040/9781350042216.ch-012

Parasecoli, Fabio. “Hungry Memories” in Bite Me, 2008. DOI: 10.5040/9781350044616-ch-001

Prescott, M. “Anorexia Nervosa” in The Cambridge World History of Food, 2000. https://www.bloomsburyfoodlibrary.com/encyclopedia-chapter?docid=b-9781474208710&tocid=b-9781474208710-AnorexiaNervosa001&st=Anorexia+Nervosa

Enrichment Materials

Lesson 1

Lesson 2

  • Aamodt, Sandra. “Why You Can't Lose Weight on a Diet” in The New York Times, May 6, 2016.

Lesson 3

Lesson 4

Lesson 5

  • Criscitelli, K. & Avena, N.M., (2016). “The Neurobiological and Behavioral Overlaps of Nicotine and Food Addiction,” Preventive Medicine, 92: 82–89.

Lesson 6

  • Sherman, P.W. & Billing, J. (1999), “Darwinian Gastronomy: Why We Use Spices,” Bioscience, 49(6): 453–463.

Lesson 7

Lesson 8

  • Messer, Ellen. “Hunger and Famine Worldwide” in The Handbook of Food Research by Anne Murcott, Warren Belasco and Peter Jackson. DOI: 10.5040/9781350042261-ch-0022

Films and DVDs

  • Fed Up. (2014). Dir. Stephanie Soechtig, USA: RADiUS-TWC