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Appears in Collections:Psychology Journal Articles
Peer Review Status: Refereed
Title: Robust, source-independent biases in children's use of socially and individually acquired information
Author(s): Atkinson, Mark
Renner, Elizabeth
Thompson, Bill
Mackintosh, Gemma
Xie, Dongjie
Su, Yanjie
Caldwell, Christine A
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Keywords: social learning
cumulative cultural evolution
learning mechanisms
human behaviour
child development
Citation: Atkinson M, Renner E, Thompson B, Mackintosh G, Xie D, Su Y & Caldwell CA (2020) Robust, source-independent biases in children's use of socially and individually acquired information. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.
Abstract: Culture has an extraordinary influence on human behaviour, unparalleled in other species. Some theories propose that humans possess learning mechanisms biologically selected specifically for social learning, which function to promote rapid enculturation. If true, it follows that information acquired via observation of another's activity might be responded to differently, compared with equivalent information acquired through one's own exploration, and that this should be the case in even very young children. To investigate this, we compared children's responses to information acquired either socially, or from personal experience. The task we used allowed direct comparison between these alternative information sources, as the information value was equivalent across conditions, which has not been true of previous methods used to tackle similar questions. Across two 18mo-5yo samples (recruited in the UK and China) we found that children performed similarly following information acquired from social demonstrations, compared with personal experience. Children's use of the information thus appeared independent of source. Furthermore, children's suboptimal performance showed evidence of a consistent bias driven by motivation for exploration as well as exploitation, which was apparent across both conditions and in both samples. Our results are consistent with the view that apparent peculiarities identified in human social information use could be developmental outcomes of general-purpose learning and motivational biases, as opposed to mechanisms that have been biologically selected specifically for the acquisition of cultural information.
Rights: ¬©American Psychological Association, 2020. This paper is not the copy of record and may not exactly replicate the authoritative document published in the APA journal. Please do not copy or cite without author's permission. The final article is available, upon publication, at:
Notes: Output Status: Forthcoming
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