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    Beyond rational imitation: learning arbitrary means actions from communicative demonstrations

    Király, I. and Csibra, Gergely and Gergely, György (2013) Beyond rational imitation: learning arbitrary means actions from communicative demonstrations. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 116 (2), pp. 471-486. ISSN 0022-0965.

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    Abstract

    The principle of rationality has been invoked to explain that infants expect agents to perform the most efficient means action to attain a goal. It has also been demonstrated that infants take into account the efficiency of observed actions to achieve a goal outcome when deciding whether to reenact a specific behavior or not. It is puzzling, however, that they also tend to imitate an apparently suboptimal unfamiliar action even when they can bring about the same outcome more efficiently by applying a more rational action alternative available to them. We propose that this apparently paradoxical behavior is explained by infants’ interpretation of action demonstrations as communicative manifestations of novel and culturally relevant means actions to be acquired, and we present empirical evidence supporting this proposal. In Experiment 1, we found that 14-month-olds reenacted novel arbitrary means actions only following a communicative demonstration. Experiment 2 showed that infants’ inclination to reproduce communicatively manifested novel actions is restricted to behaviors they can construe as goal-directed instrumental acts. The study also provides evidence that infants’ reenactment of the demonstrated novel actions reflects epistemic motives rather than purely social motives. We argue that ostensive communication enables infants to represent the teleological structure of novel actions even when the causal relations between means and end are cognitively opaque and apparently violate the efficiency expectation derived from the principle of rationality. This new account of imitative learning of novel means shows how the teleological stance and natural pedagogy—two separate cognitive adaptations to interpret instrumental versus communicative actions—are integrated as a system for learning socially constituted instrumental knowledge in humans.

    Metadata

    Item Type: Article
    Keyword(s) / Subject(s): Rational imitation, Relevance-guided imitation, Teleological stance, Natural pedagogy, Social Learning, Ostensive communication
    School: Birkbeck Schools and Departments > School of Science > Psychological Sciences
    Research Centre: Brain and Cognitive Development, Centre for (CBCD)
    Depositing User: Gergely Csibra
    Date Deposited: 06 Nov 2015 09:53
    Last Modified: 02 Dec 2016 11:12
    URI: http://eprints.bbk.ac.uk/id/eprint/12616

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