Do children imitate even when it is costly? New insights from a novel task
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Children have a proclivity to learn through faithful imitation, but the extent to which this applies under significant cost remains unclear. To address this, we investigated whether 4- to 6-year-old children (N = 97) would stop imitating to forego a desirable food reward. We presented participants with a task involving arranging marshmallows and craft sticks, with the goal being either to collect marshmallows or build a tower. Children replicated the demonstrated actions with high fidelity regardless of the goal, but retrieved rewards differently. Children either copied the specific actions needed to build a tower, prioritizing tower completion over reward; or adopted a novel convention of stacking materials before collecting marshmallows, and developed their own method to achieve better outcomes. These results suggest children's social learning decisions are flexible and context-dependent, yet that when framed by an ostensive goal, children imitated in adherence to the goal despite incurring significant material costs.
Zhao , M , Fong , F T K , Whiten , A & Nielsen , M 2023 , ' Do children imitate even when it is costly? New insights from a novel task ' , British Journal of Developmental Psychology , vol. Early View . https://doi.org/10.1111/bjdp.12463
British Journal of Developmental Psychology
Copyright © 2023 The Authors. British Journal of Developmental Psychology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of British Psychological Society. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
DescriptionThis study was supported by an Australian Research Council Discovery Project Grant to Mark Nielsen and Andrew Whiten (DP140101410).
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