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

Rawlings, B. and Flynn, E.G. and Kendal, R.L. (2022) 'Personality predicts innovation and social learning in children: implications for cultural evolution.', Developmental Science, 25 (1). e13153.


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.

Item Type:Article
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Publisher statement:© 2021 The Authors. Developmental Science published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Date accepted:26 June 2021
Date deposited:12 July 2021
Date of first online publication:12 July 2021
Date first made open access:25 August 2021

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