Himalaya: Listen. Learn. Grow.

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The Human Mind Project

School of Advanced Study, University of London

The Human Mind Project
33 MIN2016 SEP 26
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School of Advanced Study

Agency, Morals & the Mind

Morals, Culture and Society

How does the Behaviour of Others Influence What We Do?
Emma Flynn | Professor of Developmental and Comparative Psychology, Durham University

How do we become members of our cultural group? How, and why, do we learn the traditions of the society within which we live? In my talk I present research which examines how young children learn from other individuals in their social group. I present a series of diffusion experiments that investigates how ‘cultural norms’ are established, transmitted and altered. My results show that 6 children are excellent imitators, copying with high fidelity tool use behaviour that they witness others perform, even copying actions which appear to be functionally irrelevant; that is they ‘overimitate’. Such overimitation allows traditions that may be causally opaque (often the case within cultural traditions) to be sustained within groups. However, equally my work demonstrates that while children are predominantly imitators, occasionally they introduce new behaviours into their social group, which are adopted and transmitted across the group. I end my talk by exploring whether a more abstract behaviour than tool use, that is cooperation, is transmitted across groups of children, showing that, across many different forms of tasks, groups of young children do adhere to cooperative behaviour.

The Human Mind Project