Skip to content

Research at St Andrews

From over-imitation to super-copying: Adults imitate causally irrelevant aspects of tool use with higher fidelity than young children

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

DOI

Abstract

Recent research has revealed a striking tendency in young children to imitate even causally irrelevant actions, a phenomenon dubbed 'over-imitation'. To investigate whether children develop beyond this, we allowed both adults and children to witness either a child or adult model performing goal-relevant and goal-irrelevant actions to extract a reward from a transparent puzzle box. Surprisingly, copying of irrelevant actions increased with age, with the adults performing the task with less efficiency than the children. Participants of all ages were more likely to perform the irrelevant actions performed by an adult model, than by a child model. These results suggest that people may become more imitative as they mature, whilst selectively copying particular models with a high level of fidelity. We suggest that this combination of faithful copying and selectivity underwrites the powerful social learning necessary for the level of cultural transmission on which our species depends.

Close

Details

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalBritish Journal of Psychology
Volume102
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2011

    Research areas

  • HUMANS HOMO-SAPIENS, CULTURAL TRANSMISSION, RATIONAL IMITATION, INFANT IMITATION, MODELS, TELEVISION, PEER, 3-YEAR-OLDS, CHIMPANZEES, PERCEPTION

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

View graph of relations

Related by author

  1. The emergence of collective knowledge and cumulative culture in animals, humans and machines

    Whiten, A., Biro, D., Bredeche, N., Garland, E. C. & Kirby, S., 31 Jan 2022, In: Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 377, 1843, 14 p., 20200306.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  2. Collective knowledge and the dynamics of culture in chimpanzees

    Whiten, A., Harrison, R. A., McGuigan, N., Vale, G. L. & Watson, S. K., 31 Jan 2022, In: Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 377, 1843, 9 p., 20200321.

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

  3. Social learning from media: the need for a culturally diachronic developmental psychology

    Nielsen, M., Fong, F. T. K. & Whiten, A., 24 Jun 2021, (E-pub ahead of print) Advances in Child Development and Behavior. JAI Press

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

  4. A deepening understanding of animal culture suggests lessons for conservation

    Brakes, P., Carroll, E. L., Dall, S., Keith, S., McGregor, P., Mesnick, S., Noad, M., Rendell, L., Robbins, M., Rutz, C., Thorton, A., Whiten, A., Whiting, M., Aplin, L., Bearhop, S., Ciucci, P., Fishlock, V., Ford, J., Notarbartolo di Sciara, G., Simmonds, M. & 5 others, Spina, F., Wade, P., Whithead, H., Williams, J. & Garland, E. C., 28 Apr 2021, In: Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 288, 1949, 10 p., 20202718.

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

  5. The psychological reach of culture in animals’ lives

    Whiten, A., 27 Apr 2021, (E-pub ahead of print) In: Current Directions in Psychological Science. OnlineFirst, 17 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Related by journal

  1. Misperceptions of opposite-sex preferences for thinness and muscularity

    Perrett, D. I. & Lei, X., Feb 2021, In: British Journal of Psychology. 112, 1, p. 247-264 18 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  2. Research priorities for the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond: a call to action for psychological science

    O'Connor, D. B., Aggleton, J. P., Chakrabarti, B., Cooper, C. L., Creswell, C., Dunsmuir, S., Fiske, S. T., Gathercole, S., Gough, B., Ireland, J. L., Jones, M. V., Jowett, A., Kagan, C., Karanika-Murray, M., Kaye, L. K., Kumari, V., Lewandowsky, S., Lightman, S., Malpass, D., Meins, E. & 9 others, Morgan, B. P., Morrison Coulthard, L. J., Reicher, S. D., Schacter, D. L., Sherman, S. M., Simms, V., Williams, A., Wykes, T. & Armitage, C. J., 19 Jul 2020, (E-pub ahead of print) In: British Journal of Psychology. Earl View, e12468.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  3. Sex differences in confidence influence patterns of conformity

    Cross, C. P., Brown, G. R., Morgan, T. J. H. & Laland, K. N., Nov 2017, In: British Journal of Psychology. 108, 4, p. 655-667

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  4. Serial killers, spiders and cybersex: social and survival information bias in the transmission of urban legends

    Stubbersfield, J. M., Tehrani, J. J. & Flynn, E. G., May 2015, In: British Journal of Psychology. 106, 2, p. 288-307 20 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  5. Men's strategic preferences for femininity in female faces

    Little, A. C., Jones, B. C., Feinberg, D. R. & Perrett, D. I., Aug 2014, In: British Journal of Psychology. 105, 3, p. 364-381

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

ID: 7702161

Top