Contamination Sensitivity in Young Children

Michael Siegal, David L. Share

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In Experiment 1, to examine contamination sensitivity, children ages 36 to 47 months were shown juice that had been in contact with a cockroach. In contrast to previous research suggesting that young children do not have the cognitive prerequisites to understand the invisible nature of contamination, most children indicated that the juice was not good to drink even though the cockroach had been removed, leaving no trace. Children made accurate evaluations of others' responses to this type of incident and inferred actions to protect others. The purpose of Experiment 2 was to determine whether contamination sensitivity may be guided by an implicit knowledge of the distinction between appearance and reality. Children ages 30 to 42 months were presented with a piece of moldy bread. The brad was then covered by a breakfast spread. In contrast to a control group that was given fresh bread without mold, most responded that the bread would not be good to eat even after the mold was concealed by the spread.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)455-458
Number of pages4
JournalDevelopmental Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1990

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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