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Investigating the mechanisms of cultural acquisition : how pervasive is overimitation in adults?

Flynn, E. and Smith, K. (2012) 'Investigating the mechanisms of cultural acquisition : how pervasive is overimitation in adults?', Social psychology., 43 (4). pp. 185-195.


High-fidelity copying is critical to the acquisition of culture. However, young children’s high-fidelity imitation can result in overimitation, the copying of instrumentally irrelevant actions. We present a series of studies investigating whether adults too overimitate. Experiment 1 found that adults do overimitate, even when evaluation pressures were reduced (Experiment 2) and when participants were faced with a time pressure involving a monetary reward (Experiment 3). Only when participants were presented with a demonstration by someone they believed to be a fellow participant (Experiment 4) did less than half of them overimitate. Thus, overimitation appears to be a robust, adaptive process allowing the acquisition of new information in unfamiliar settings.

Item Type:Article
Keywords:Social learning, Overimitation, Imitation, Cultural evolution, Observational learning.
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Publisher statement:© 2012 Hogrefe Publishing. Social Psychology 2012; 43(4): 185-195. This article does not exactly replicate the final version published in the journal "Social Psychology". It is not a copy of the original published article and is not suitable for citation.
Record Created:23 Apr 2015 15:50
Last Modified:24 Apr 2015 09:56

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