Open Access Peer-reviewed

Performance on a Food Health Assessment Using Emoticons with Pre-Literacy-Aged Children

Gregory J. Privitera1,, Stephanie I. Vogel1, Danielle E. Antonelli1

1Department of Psychology, Saint Bonaventure University, New York, USA

American Journal of Educational Research. 2013, 1(3), 110-114. DOI: 10.12691/education-1-3-9
Published online: August 25, 2017


In the present study, we tested the hypothesis that 3-year-old children at a pre-literacy age can correctly identify healthy and unhealthy foods if they are paired with emoticons to convey this information. Using a multiple baseline single case design, 6 boys were shown pairs of cards depicting one healthy and one unhealthy food, across many trials. Children were asked to point to the healthy food on half the trials and to point to the food that was not healthy on the other half of trials. On half the trials, the foods depicted were familiar to the child; on the other half of trials, the foods were not familiar. A happy face emoticon was displayed on all cards depicting a healthy food; a sad face emoticon was displayed on all cards depicting an unhealthy food. If a child did not score 100% on each trial in baseline, then he was given a lesson to teach him how to relate emoticons with health and tested again in a post-baseline phase. The results showed that four of six children scored 100% on this assessment in baseline. The two remaining children scored 100% in the post-baseline phase. These results show that pre-literacy-aged children can readily match concepts of health (healthy, not healthy) to emotional correlates of health (healthy-happy, not healthy-not good). At present, these are the first results to show that literacy is not an absolute requirement for children to identify the healthfulness of foods, and could lead to possible early interventions that could be easily incorporated into a preschool curriculum for children as young as 3-years of age.


child health, health education, literacy, preschool, food
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