Personality predicts innovation and social learning in children: Implications for cultural evolution

Bruce S. Rawlings*, Emma G. Flynn, Rachel L. Kendal

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
225 Downloads (Pure)


Innovation and social learning are the pillars of cultural evolution, allowing cultural behaviours to cumulatively advance over generations. Yet, little is known about individual differences in the use of social and asocial information. We examined whether personality influenced 7‐11‐year‐old children's (N = 282) propensity to elect to observe others first or independently generate solutions to novel problems. Conscientiousness was associated with electing for no demonstrations, while agreeableness was associated with opting for demonstrations. For children receiving demonstrations, openness to experience consistently predicted deviation from observed methods. Children who opted for no demonstrations were also more likely than those opting for demonstrations to exhibit tool manufacture on an innovation challenge and displayed higher creativity, as measured by an alternate uses task. These results highlight how new cultural traditions emerge, establish and advance by identifying which individuals generate new cultural variants in populations and which are influential in the diffusion of these variants, and help reduce the apparent tension within the ‘ratchet’ of cumulative culture.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13153
JournalDevelopmental science
Early online date12 Jul 2021
Publication statusEarly online date - 12 Jul 2021


  • cultural evolution
  • imitation
  • individual differences
  • innovation
  • personality


Dive into the research topics of 'Personality predicts innovation and social learning in children: Implications for cultural evolution'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this