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Appears in Collections:Psychology eTheses
Title: A comparative approach to social learning from the bottom up
Author(s): O'Sullivan, Eóin P
Supervisor(s): Caldwell, Christine Anna
Keywords: social learning
comparative psychology
capuchin monkeys
automatic imitation
behavioural synchrony
social contagion
developmental psychology
Issue Date: Sep-2015
Publisher: University of Stirling
Abstract: The aim of this thesis is to examine the cognitive processes of social learning from the bottom up. In the field of comparative psychology, an overemphasis on understanding complex cognitive processes in nonhuman animals (e.g. empathy, imitation), may be detrimental to the study of simpler mechanisms. In this thesis, I report five studies of simple cognitive processes related to social learning. A series of experiments with human children and capuchin monkeys (Sapajus sp.), examined action imitation and identified a possible role for associative learning in the development of this ability. An analysis of observational data from captive capuchins explored a number of lesser-studied social learning phenomena, including behavioural synchrony, the neighbour effect, and group-size effects. The results of this study emphasise the importance of exploring behaviour at a number of levels to appreciate the dynamic nature of social influence. Two final experiments examined social contagion in capuchin monkeys, and highlight the importance of describing the relationship between behaviour and emotion to properly understand more complex social cognition. Together, these studies demonstrate how approaching human and nonhuman behaviour from the bottom up, as well as from the top down, can contribute to a better comparative science of social learning.
Type: Thesis or Dissertation

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