UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Foundations of cultural learning Zhao, Wanying


To acquire their local culture, infants must identify good cultural models to learn from. Doing so successfully requires learners to evaluate others’ qualities as potential knowledge sources. The following body of research examines how the youngest humans identify good sources of conventional behaviours—a domain of cultural knowledge that lacks inherent properties for evaluation. Chapter 2 examines infants’ preferences for individuals who performed a consensus action vs. an oft-­‐repeated action. Results revealed that preverbal infants are capable of making complex, context-­‐dependent evaluations, favouring conformists when the targets’ prior knowledge cannot be assumed, and preferring mavericks when it can. Chapter 3 extends these results by showing that preschool aged children use some of these same cues to identify who may be good to learn from. Chapter 4 investigates infants’ use of observed emotional communications to choose between social and asocial targets. Cultural and domain differences were found for 12 month old infants: target preferences were influenced by emotional reactions directed at social targets, but not by emotional reactions directed at asocial targets. A differential response to positive and negative emotional reaction only reliably affected European Canadian infants’ choices, but not East Asian infants, nor European and East Asian mixed infants. Chapter 5 investigated how parents convey evaluative messages about objects during interactions with infants, and explored cultural differences in these pedagogical interactions. Results hint at cultural differences in the amount of valence congruent utterances caregivers make, resulting in differential experience with emotional communications as a means of learning about the world.

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