Skip to content

Research at St Andrews

Social learning in the real-world: ‘over-imitation’ occurs in both children and adults unaware of participation in an experiment and independently of social interaction

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Author(s)

Andrew Whiten, Gillian Allan, Siobhan Devlin, Natalie Kseib, Nicola Raw, Nicola McGuigan

School/Research organisations

Abstract

The current study avoided the typical laboratory context to determine instead whether over-imitation—the disposition to copy even visibly, causally unnecessary actions—occurs in a real-world context in which participants are unaware of being in an experiment. We disguised a puzzle-box task as an interactive item available to the public within a science engagement zone of Edinburgh Zoo. As a member of the public approached, a confederate acting as a zoo visitor retrieved a reward from the box using a sequence of actions containing both causally relevant and irrelevant elements. Despite the absence of intentional demonstration, or social pressure to copy, a majority of both child and even adult observers included all causally irrelevant actions in their reproduction. This occurred even though causal irrelevance appeared manifest because of the transparency of the puzzle-box. That over-imitation occurred so readily in a naturalistic context, devoid of social interaction and pressure, suggests that humans are opportunistic social learners throughout the lifespan, copying the actions of other individuals even when these actions are not intentionally demonstrated, and their causal significance is not readily apparent. The disposition to copy comprehensively, even when a mere onlooker, likely provides humans, irrespective of their age, with a powerful mechanism to extract maximal information from the social environment.
Close

Details

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0159920
Number of pages14
JournalPLoS One
Volume11
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - 28 Jul 2016

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

View graph of relations

Related by author

  1. Behavioral conservatism is linked to complexity of behavior in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes): implications for cognition and cumulative culture

    Davis, S. J., Schapiro, S. J., Lambeth, S. P., Wood, L. A. & Whiten, A. 19 Jul 2018 In : Journal of Comparative Psychology. Advance Online

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  2. The interaction of social and perceivable causal factors in shaping ‘over-imitation’

    Burdett, E. R. R., McGuigan, N., Harrison, R. & Whiten, A. Jul 2018 In : Cognitive Development. 47, p. 8-18 11 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  3. Chimpanzees demonstrate individual differences in social information use

    Watson, S. K., Vale, G. L., Hopper, L. M., Dean, L. G., Kendal, R. L., Price, E. E., Wood, L. A., Davis, S. J., Schapiro, S. J., Lambeth, S. P. & Whiten, A. 19 Jun 2018 In : Animal Cognition. In press, 12 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  4. The pervasive role of social learning in primate lifetime development

    Whiten, A. & van de Waal, E. May 2018 In : Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology. 72, 16 p., 80

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

Related by journal

  1. 16S rRNA gene metabarcoding and TEM reveals different ecological strategies within the genus Neogloboquadrina (planktonic foraminifer)

    Bird, C., Darling, K. F., Russell, A. D., Fehrenbacher, J. S., Davis, C. V., Free, A. & Ngwenya, B. T. 29 Jan 2018 In : PLoS One. 13, 1, 26 p., e0191653

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  2. Autophagic flux blockage by accumulation of weakly basic tenovins leads to elimination of B-Raf mutant tumour cells that survive vemurafenib

    Ladds, M. J. G. W., Pastor-Fernández, A., Popova, G., van Leeuwen, I. M. M., Eng, K. E., Drummond, C. J., Johansson, L., Svensson, R., Westwood, N. J., McCarthy, A. R., Tholander, F., Popa, M., Lane, D. P., McCormack, E., McInerney, G. M., Bhatia, R. & Laín, S. 23 Apr 2018 In : PLoS One. 13, 4, 21 p., e0195956

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  3. Body density of humpback whales (Megaptera novaengliae) in feeding aggregations estimated from hydrodynamic gliding performance

    Narazaki, T., Isojunno, S., Nowacek, D. P., Swift, R., Friedlaender, A. S., Ramp, C., Smout, S., Aoki, K., Deecke, V. B., Sato, K. & Miller, P. J. O. 12 Jul 2018 In : PLoS ONE. 13, 7, 23 p., e0200287

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  4. Context or composition: how does neighbourhood deprivation impact upon adolescent smoking behaviour?

    Morris, T., Manley, D. & van Ham, M. 8 Feb 2018 In : PLoS One. 13, 2, 16 p., e0192566

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  5. Primate social attention: species differences and effects of individual experience in humans, great apes, and macaques

    Kano, F., Shepherd, S. V., Hirata, S. & Call, J. 23 Feb 2018 In : PLoS One. 13, 2, 25 p., e0193283

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Related by journal

  1. PLoS One (Journal)

    Young, S. (Reviewer)
    7 Jun 201719 Jun 2017

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial workPeer review of manuscripts

  2. PLoS One (Journal)

    Hughes, D. J. (Reviewer)
    2014 → …

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial workPeer review of manuscripts

  3. PLoS One (Journal)

    Smith, T. K. (Member of editorial board)
    2014 → …

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial workPeer review of manuscripts

  4. PLoS One (Journal)

    Ozakinci, G. (Editor)
    2013

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial workEditor of research journal

  5. PLoS One (Journal)

    Williams, D. J. (Reviewer)
    2013 → …

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial workPeer review of manuscripts

ID: 244482797