Taste Aversion

Taste aversion is something that almost every person goes though in their lives. For some it lasts for years or their whole lives, while others only experience it for short periods of time. Taste aversion is what happens when humans have aversion to tastes (foods) they have become sick from.  Sometime this correlation can be used for good while commonly taste aversion happens on its own.

An example in my life when taste aversion used to get a positive outcome was when I was younger (7 years old) and still sucking my thumb. My mother noticed this and to help me stop put nail polish and other bad tasting items onto my thumb at night in order for me to make the association of the bad taste every time I went to suck my thumb. This eventually was successful in getting me to stop sucking my thumb.  After a few days of going to suck my thumb and tasting the awful things on my thumb I developed a taste aversion towards doing it.  This overall process of classical conditioning with taste aversion is what led me to the end of my thumb sucking.

A classic example of taste aversion is when a person eats a bad tasting food and then decides not to eat the food again. This is a situation that I believe happens to all people more often than they realize. For example:  when I went out to eat at a Chinese buffet. When people go to a buffet for the first time they commonly try everything that looks appealing or without knowing the taste. In multiple occasions I would get something that looked interesting but turned out to be extremely bad. I automatically developed a taste aversion towards that particular food and never attempted to try it again, even every other time I would return to the restaurant I would not try it. Taste aversion is real and occurs more often they we notice.

12 thoughts on “Taste Aversion

  1. Mao Lin

    i am actually a fingernail bitter when i was about 7~8 years old and my mom had used taste aversion on me in order to fix my nail bitting problem; however, she used sneak’s bile to execute her plan. Your example is very vivid and very relatable to our life, which is much easier to understand. The bitter taste of snake bile instantly stopped me from bitting fingernails, however, after a couple month, the experience of bitter taste sneak bile gradually diminished and went back to chew my fingernail….

  2. Zanna Sarom

    I thought this was an interesting topic because my brother would had done the same thing. He couldn’t stop biting his nails. So my mother decided to put nasty nail polish on his finger so every time he is trying to bite his nails he stop immediately. At first he was tasting the nasty nails polish a couple times because he did not realize what the substance would do at first. But after a several times of doing this he started to realized that he would taste that nasty nail polish so he is avoid biting his nails because he did want to taste the nasty nail polish. So I believe that taste aversion would have been more effective if someone is younger kids because they are not capable to find any different way to avoid the bad behavior. So it is usually take people at least a few times before categorizing them as bad.

  3. ayr5381

    I’ve heard that nail biting is a genetic habit, and I jokingly pick on my mom for passing on this bad habit to me. Genetic or not, nail biting is a really gross habit. It’s really embarrassing to have jagged nails and ripped cuticles constantly, especially when your friends all have cute manicured nails. I’m a big fan of the bad tasting nail polish. This new product left my mouth with a terrible bitter taste for hours after I bit a nail. Now, the gross feeling associated with nail biting has helped me to kick the habit. I think of biting my nails and I immediately imagine the taste of the bitter nail polish. This strong psychological association I’ve made has totally turned me off from nail biting.

  4. Derek Peter Halko

    I personally have been the subject for nail biting taste aversion techniques. My parents constantly harped on me to stop biting my nails, and when reprimanding me wasn’t enough, they began using the nail polish trick. Unfortunately, this tactic failed miserably, and I continued to bite my nails. They went to a pharmacy where they picked up a concentrated something or other (I was probably 8 at the time) that was so much more potent than simple nail polish. Being the little troublemaker I was, I decided I would spend upwards of twenty minutes washing my hands of this awful concoction to get to a point such that I could continue my nasty habit of biting my nails. I find it very interesting that taste aversion works so well for foods one may eat that make them sick and I could handle constantly ingesting nail polish on my hands just to satisfy my habit. I guess it may have worked to a small degree, since I really can’t stand the smell of nail polish anymore, but it didn’t stop me from biting my nails.

  5. John Howland Behler

    I thought this was interesting because when I was growing up my brother had the same problem. My brother would always bite his nails, so my mom would put nasty nail biting polish on his finger nails so when he went to bite his nails he would get a bad taste in his mouth. After several times of doing this he stopped biting his nails to avoid the taste of the nail polish which is also known as classical conditioning.

  6. Laura Peterson

    When I was younger, I remember eating hot dogs and banana bread one night for dinner. That night and the next day I became extremely ill. I couldn’t even stomach the thought of either food after that. I got really queasy when either was mentioned. If you think about it, taste aversion is actually a really useful response for keeping us (and other animals) away from harmful substances. I’ve never heard of bad-tasting nail polish to stop certain behaviors, but it seems like a really effective technique. You could probably even link taste aversion to conditioning!

  7. Richard Fucci

    I had a similar experience to your example of positive taste aversion. When I was younger, I had the nasty habit of biting my nails. To attempt to counter this, my mom bought something similar to nail polish, only it tasted extremely bitter. She began to apply it to my nails at any opportunity she could, as she was not fond of my habit. I didn’t realize what the substance would do at first, however I quickly discovered that whenever my nails touched my mouth or lips, I would feel a burning sensation. Because of this, I would instinctively pull my hand away and would not bite my nails. Initially this was an efficient way to stop my from biting my nails, however, I figured out a workaround to this issue and continued to do so. I eventually broke this bad habit many years later by going cold turkey. I believe the use of taste aversion would have been more effective if I were younger, as I would have been less capable of finding ways to get around the substance on my nails.

  8. James Robert Haley

    Although I never experienced taste aversion by someone like my parents trying to get me to stop a bad habit, I have experienced feeling sick every time a particular food is brought up. For me, it is anything from Red Robin (a chain restaurant). I went there one time as a kid and got sick later that night with food poisoning. I didn’t go back there for about four years until one day my family decided to go there for a meal. I went along and was not really too worried about the food because I figured I was just overthinking things. Unfortunately, I ended up getting sick again after that because the of food there. Now, every time I think about eating there I just start to feel sick. Its pretty crazy that even after not eating there for a few years now I still get a nauseous feeling when I think about it.

  9. Kevin Wood Bearse

    It’s funny how this is such a concept that everyone experiences. I myself did, when I was younger. I had been taking this awful anti-biotic medication for an ear infection I believe. It tasted so awful the first day because I wasn’t onto pills yet and the liquid meds were so thick and chalky. That night after I took my medication for just the second time, my mom made pulled pork sandwiches. I got so sick from the medication while eating, I am very taste adverse to pulled pork. Over time it’s weakened, I can force myself to eat it, but for one of the most popular foods in the United States, it is weird to say I don’t like it very much. I used to before this incident, which has always baffled me silly until now. Funny how my mind still associates pulled pork with that wretched medication smell.

  10. Kathleen Holman

    I’ve been trying to use the nail polish trick for a while on my boyfriend who constantly bites the skin around his nails. It’s not working too well! I wish the taste aversion would work better! But It’s like our professor said in class, often times people who this technique is being used on realize that once the nail polish isn’t on their finger anymore it doesn’t taste bad and thus they continue their habits. I wonder hat other technique may work to get him to stop, apparently his parents even tried use the bitter spray you put on furniture to prevent your pets from chewing it up! I suppose it’s interesting that taste aversion works with animals as well! However I find that my dog is less likely to start up his old chewing habits once the taste aversion has been applied!
    And I can relate on the buffet idea! If I try a food once and it’s bad it’s pretty much game over! I can never eat it again even if a five-star gourmet chef prepares it for me. Which is a shame! I’m sure there are some dishes I’ve had that were just made by a junky cook and the actual dish is probably good when made properly!

  11. Lauren Elizabeth Gabryluk

    The story with your nail biting is such a great example, especially because I wish my parents would have done that with me since I have the awful habit of biting my nails. When I wrote my blog post, it was about negative outcomes with taste aversion, but I never really thought of any positive examples. For the taste aversion with food, I feel like taste aversion has more to do with the nauseous and sickening feeling from smelling, tasting and seeing the food. So I was unsure if your example was actually taste aversion or not since you did not become sick from it. So going along with Sarah’s comment, I agree that if it made her sick, and she got sick at the thought or smell is a good example of taste aversion.

  12. Sarah Nicole Weidenbaum

    My mother totally used the nail polish trick with me to get me to stop sucking on my fingers. It worked in the beginning, as I was only about 7 as well. However, I learned quick that I could chipped off the nail polish or just get used to the awful taste because I was so determined to suck my fingers that I never really developed a taste aversion just more grew out of the behavior. I agree though with a bad experience about food though. I once ate at subway and thought it tasted off, later to realize I had gotten food poisoning from uncooked chicken. That was 4 years ago and to this day every time that I see a subway or someone mentions eating there I immediately get a sick feeling in my stomach. I haven’t eaten there since. However, just if a food is bad doesn’t mean I will automatically avoid it forever, I usually try things a few times before categorizing them as bad, unless it has made me sick. If it makes me sick, I will get sick at even the thought or smell.

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