Skip to content

Research at St Andrews

Cultural transmission of tool-use in young children:  A diffusion chain study

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Emma Flynn, Andrew Whiten

School/Research organisations


Developmental and gender effects in the transmission of information about a tool-use task were investigated within a 'diffusion chain' design. One hundred and twenty-seven children (65 three-year-olds and 62 five-year-olds) participated. Eighty children took part in diffusion chains in which consecutive children in chains of five witnessed two attempts on a tool-use task by the previous child in the chain. Comparisons were made between two experimental conditions in which alternative techniques were seeded and a third no-model control condition. Children in the diffusion chains conformed to the technique they witnessed, in one experimental condition faithfully transmitting a technique absent in the no-model condition. Five-year-olds displayed more robust transmission than three-year-olds, and boys were both more competent and displayed stronger transmission than girls.



Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)699-718
Number of pages20
JournalSocial Development
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2008

    Research areas


Discover related content
Find related publications, people, projects and more using interactive charts.

View graph of relations

Related by author

  1. Cultural evolution in animals

    Whiten, A., Nov 2019, In : Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics. 50, p. 27-48

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

  2. The reach of gene-culture coevolution in animals

    Whitehead, H., Laland, K. N., Rendell, L., Thorogood, R. & Whiten, A., 3 Jun 2019, In : Nature Communications. 10, 10 p., 2405.

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

  3. Animal cultures matter for conservation

    Brakes, P., Dall, S. R. X., Aplin, L. M., Bearhop, S., Carroll, E. L., Ciucci, P., Fishlock, V., Ford, J. K. B., Garland, E. C., Keith, S. A., McGregor, P. K., Mesnick, S. L., Noad, M. J., Notarbartolo di Sciara, G., Robbins, M. M., Simmonds, M. P., Spina, F., Thornton, A., Wade, P. R., Whiting, M. J. & 5 others, Williams, J., Rendell, L., Whitehead, H., Whiten, A. & Rutz, C., 8 Mar 2019, In : Science. 363, 6431, p. 1032-1034 5 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  4. ‘Over-imitation’: a review and appraisal of a decade of research

    Hoehl, S., Keupp, S., Schleihauf, H., McGuigan, N., Buttelmann, D. & Whiten, A., Mar 2019, In : Developmental Review. 51, p. 90-108

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

  5. Conformity and over-imitation: an integrative review of variant forms of hyper-reliance on social learning

    Whiten, A., 14 Jan 2019, Advances in the Study of Behavior. Elsevier, (Advances in the Study of Behavior).

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Related by journal

  1. Children Selectively Trust Individuals Who Have Imitated Them

    Over, H., Carpenter, M., Spears, R. & Gattis, M., 2013, In : Social Development. 22, 2, p. 215-224 10 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  2. Joint attention and imitative learning in children, chimpanzees, and enculturated chimpanzees

    CARPENTER, M., TOMASELLO, M. & SAVAGERUMBAUGH, S., Nov 1995, In : Social Development. 4, 3, p. 217-237

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

ID: 385093