Two-year-old children copy more reliably and more often than nonhuman great apes in multiple observational learning tasks
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Individuals observing a proficient model can potentially benefit by copying at least one of the following three elements: motor movements (i.e., actions), goals, and results. Although several studies have investigated this issue in human infants, there are still very few studies that have systematically examined great apes’ ability to spontaneously copy each of these three elements (particularly in comparison with human infants). We tested great apes and human children with eight two-target puzzle boxes—with varying levels of difficulty—to isolate the aspects that the various species may be more prone to copying. We found first trial evidence for observational learning of actions, goals, and results in children. Some copying was found for apes as well, but only if their performance was averaged across trials.
KeywordsImitation Emulation Observational learning Two-action task
We thank Jenny Collard, Johannes Grossmann, Alenka Hribrar, Beate Kahl, Julia Keil, Roger Mundry, Raik Pieszek, Sebastian Schütte, and Hjalmar Turesson. We also thank the anonymous reviewers and the Max Planck Society. All experiments complied with current German laws.
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