The development of selective copying: children’s learning from an expert versus their mother

Amanda J. Lucas, Emily R. R. Burdett, Vanessa Burgess, Lara A. Wood, Nicola McGuigan, Paul L. Harris, Andrew Whiten*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

This study tested the prediction that, with age, children should rely less on familiarity and more on expertise in their selective social learning. Experiment 1 (N=50) found that 5- to 6-year-olds copied the technique their mother used to extract a prize from a novel puzzle box, in preference to both a stranger and an established expert. This bias occurred despite children acknowledging the expert model’s superior capability. Experiment 2 (N=50) demonstrated a shift in 7-to 8-year-olds towards copying the expert. Children aged 9- to 10-years did not copy according to a model bias. The findings of a follow-up study (N=30) confirmed that, instead, they prioritized their own – partially flawed – causal understanding of the puzzle box.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2026-2042
Number of pages17
JournalChild Development
Volume88
Issue number6
Early online date29 Dec 2016
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2017
Externally publishedYes

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Lucas, A. J., Burdett, E. R. R., Burgess, V., Wood, L. A., McGuigan, N., Harris, P. L., & Whiten, A. (2017). The development of selective copying: children’s learning from an expert versus their mother. Child Development, 88(6), 2026-2042. https://doi.org/10.1111/cdev.12711