Selectivity in social and asocial learning: Investigating the prevalence, effect and development of young children’s learning preferences

Emma Flynn*, Cameron Turner, Luc Alain Giraldeau

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

19 Citations (Scopus)
1 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Culture evolution requires both modification and faithful replication of behaviour, thus it is essential to understand how individuals choose between social and asocial learning. In a quasi-experimental design, 3-and 5-year-olds (176), and adults (52) were presented individually with two novel artificial fruits, and told of the apparatus’ relative difficulty (easy versus hard). Participants were asked if they wanted to attempt the task themselves or watch an experimenter attempt it first; and then had their preference either met or violated. A significant proportion of children and adults (74%) chose to learn socially. For children, this request was efficient, as observing a demonstration made them significantly quicker at the task than learning asocially. However, for 5- year-olds, children who selected asocial learning were also found to be highly efficient at the task, showing that by 5 years children are selective in choosing a learning strategy that is effective for them. Adults further evidenced this trend, and also showed selectivity based on task difficulty. This is the first study to examine the rates, performance outcomes and developmental trajectory of preferences in asocial and social learning, ultimately informing our understanding of innovation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20150189
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Volume371
Issue number1690
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 19 Mar 2016
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Asocial learning
  • Innovation
  • Learning preference
  • Modification
  • Social learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)

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