Babies Who Enjoy Sour Tastes May Have Higher IQs


By Dr. Fabiano de Abreu Agrela

Contemporary scientific literature has explored, albeit inconclusively, the potential correlation between a predilection for sour flavors and elevated intelligence quotient (IQ) indicators in both children and adults. In this opinion piece, I discuss the validity and implications of these findings, assess the robustness of the empirical data, and suggest future research directions.

Firstly, it is pertinent to consider the research conducted by Liem and Mennella (2002), which investigated the relationship between infant feeding with formulas that have distinctly sour flavors and a subsequent predilection for foods with high citric acid content. This study is crucial as it offers a longitudinal perspective on taste preferences that develop from early infancy (Liem, D. & Mennella, J., 2002, "Sweet and sour preferences in young children and adults: role of repeated exposure," Developmental Psychobiology, vol. 41, no. 4, pp. 388-395).

Furthermore, the works of Liem et al. (2004) and Liem and Mennella (2003) provide an empirical basis suggesting a predisposition among children for intensely sour flavors, which could be associated with a behavioral profile characterized by openness to new experiences and a certain predilection for intense sensory stimuli. These studies found that a significant fraction of children showed a preference for gelatins with high concentrations of citric acid, a behavior that appears to be linked not only to the organoleptic properties of saliva but also to increased salivary flow (Liem, D. et al., 2004, "Sour taste preferences of children relate to preference for novel and intense stimuli," Chemical Senses, vol. 29, no. 8, pp. 713-720).

While these studies point to an intriguing association between taste preferences and cognitive abilities, it is crucial to approach the interpretation of such correlations as evidence of causality with caution. The study conducted in 2011 and published in the journal Appetite, which suggests a trend for children with higher IQs to prefer sour flavors, and the 2015 study in the journal Intelligence, which found an association between a preference for sour flavors and superior performance in fluid intelligence tests, add complexity to the debate (Appetite, 2011; Intelligence, 2015).

It is imperative that future investigations employ robust methodologies, preferably longitudinal and with adequate control groups, to deeply explore the biopsychosocial dynamics that may underlie these observations. The development of experimental models that can isolate influential genetic and environmental variables is essential for advancing the understanding of the interactions between the neurophysiology of taste preferences and cognition.

In summary, while the hypothesis that a preference for sour flavors during infancy may be an indicator of higher IQ offers a fascinating glimpse into the complexity of the biological bases of behavior and intelligence, it is crucial to proceed with rigorous and meticulous investigations before drawing definitive conclusions. Future studies should clarify whether such preferences are merely epiphenomena of specific neurological configurations or represent behavioral phenotypes with profound implications for cognitive and educational development.


Liem, D. G. & Mennella, J. A. (2002). Sweet and sour preferences in young children and adults: role of repeated exposure. Developmental Psychobiology, 41(4), 388-395.

Liem, D. G., Westerbeek, A., Wolterink, S., Kok, F. J., & De Graaf, C. (2004). Sour taste preferences of children relate to preference for novel and intense stimuli. Chemical Senses, 29(8), 713-720.

Liem, D. G. & Mennella, J. A. (2003). Heightened sour preferences during childhood. Chemical Senses, 28(2), 173-180.

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