This question has been tormenting the public for a long time, but resurfaced recently with a new vigor. USA today wrote a post on this very subject in 2015.
In the article, Lindsay Deutsch reports that the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council made the official verdict that a hot dog is not a sandwich. They said that it “is truly a category unto its own (USA Today).” It is interesting that they used that exact wording as the reasoning for that decision as categorization is indeed what makes this decision so difficult to make.
We as humans with highly complicated brains in a highly complicated world, like to sort the things in our environment into categories. Some things, such as faces, have their own process that involves a template matching system as opposed to a feature-by-feature system. There are different theories that discuss the way we categorize items in our world. These theories include the idea of prototype and exemplar. We use an exemplar or representative from a category that we compare the new item to to determine whether or not it should be in that category. A prototype is kind of the most average of that category. And then there are some categories that have hard and fast rules that, if unmet by the new item, will not make it into the category.
This made me wonder, what do kids think about the hot-dog dilemma? At what point do we make the categorical decision. I wasn’t able to find an article about that specific question, however there was a study done that looked at young children’s abilities to categories fruits and vegetables and how that related to how picky they were. They got close to 80 kids, ages 2-6 and also a control group of adults. They then gave a typicality survey of the vegetables and fruits to the parents who indicated, as we have discussed in class, that apples were the most typical fruit, and carrots the most typical vegetable. They had the kiddos sort the veggies and fruits, and found that the youngest ones did have the lowest accuracy rate, but that it was still pretty high. 73% of 2-4 year olds put veggies in the veggie box, but 44% put fruits in the veggie box too. Both of these numbers got better in the 4-6 year old range, however, with significantly fewer fruits in the veggie box.
What does this mean for their ability to categories foods? One of the conclusions that the researchers made was that food has taxonomical categories and conceptual categories, the taxonomical being the “true” societal, operant definitions while conceptual relating more to the perception of that food. They said that “we can assume that the children had not yet completely developed taxonomic categories within the food domain and mostly used perceptual cues to categorize items (Food rejection).” This means that they will probably continue to develop taxonomic categories that will conflict with their conceptual categories and probably also have difficulties answering the age-old question: is a hot dog a sandwich?
Camille Rioux, Delphine Picard, Jérémie Lafraire. Food rejection and the development of food categorization in young children. Cognitive Development, Elsevier, 2016, 40, pp.163 – 177. ff10.1016/j.cogdev.2016.09.003ff. ffhal-01464659f