Publication detailsFlynn, E. & Smith, K. (2012). Investigating the mechanisms of cultural acquisition: How pervasive is overimitation in adults? Social Psychology 43(4): 185-195.
- Publication type: Journal Article
- ISSN/ISBN: 1864-9335, 2151-2590
- DOI: 10.1027/1864-9335/a000119
- Keywords: Social learning, Overimitation, Imitation, Cultural evolution, Observational learning.
- Further publication details on publisher web site
- Durham Research Online (DRO) - may include full text
Author(s) from Durham
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.