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Title: Tracking the development of social learning
Authors: Machin, Jennifer Jane
Issue Date: 2018
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: Background Developmental shifts in social learning (SL), from selective copying to overimitation, are common in childhood. These differences appear to be both age- and taskdependent. Multiple explanations have been proposed, including participants’ understanding of the task goal, affiliation with the demonstrator, and the influence of developing abilities, (memory, theory of mind). Much research focuses on young children or adults, with little understanding into how these behaviours develop during middle childhood and adolescence. Little is known about how participants attend to demonstrations and whether this affects their task performance. This thesis investigated the role of multiple tasks, developing abilities, and attention to demonstrations in children and adults, with the aim of understanding the SL process from beginning to end, and to determine whether a developmental trajectory of copying strategies was present. Methods Three studies examined the influence of task types, developing abilities, and attention to a demonstration in typically developing participants aged three to 45. Four tasks were used: a puzzle box, a tool-building task, a puzzle board, and a colouring task. Eye-tracking was used in order to examine the relationship between participants’ attention to the demonstration and their task performance. Experiment three investigated participants’ understanding of task goals and the demonstrator’s intentions. Results Minimal differences in eye-tracking patterns between overimitators and selective copiers were observed. Differences in copying strategies were observed between age groups, and appeared to be linked to memory development but not theory of mind. Participants’ interpretation of task goals influenced their own task performance. Copying fidelity was task-dependent across all age groups. Conclusions Overimitation does not appear to be influenced at the “attention phase”, but instead may be driven by participants’ memory ability and understanding of task goals. Caution should be used when using one SL task in isolation, as copying behaviours varied across tasks in the same participant groups.
Description: PhD Thesis
Appears in Collections:Institute of Neuroscience

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