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Young Children's Learning from Third-Party Interactions

Date and Time: 
Thursday, February 11, 2016. 04:00 PM - 05:30 PM
Meeting Location: 
Building 460, Room 126
Meeting Description: 
Speaker:
Nameera Akhtar is Professor of Psychology at the University of California Santa Cruz.
 
Meeting description:
Parents and researchers in Western middle-class societies emphasize joint attention in dyadic interactions and teaching children new skills and information directly. This emphasis obscures the fact that young children learn much through observation of others’ interactions. I will describe the results of several experiments examining young children’s learning from third-party interactions. Some of the studies examine learning novel words through overhearing; others examine the learning of novel arbitrary actions (imitative learning). The findings indicate that learning from third-party interactions is a robust skill seen in children as young as 18 months, and that some factors that influence learning from direct interactions (such as familiarity of the speaker/teacher) do not influence learning from a third-party interaction. Indeed, in our studies children were more likely to imitate a novel action performed by strangers who did not interact with them than a stranger who did. Direct teaching is often viewed as optimal, but this finding in particular suggests that in some contexts observational learning may be privileged.

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