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Social Learning of Social Behavior in Early Life

Dale F. Hay, Patricia Murray, Sylvia Cecire and Alison Nash
Child Development
Vol. 56, No. 1 (Feb., 1985), pp. 43-57
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Society for Research in Child Development
DOI: 10.2307/1130172
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1130172
Page Count: 15
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Social Learning of Social Behavior in Early Life
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Abstract

Dimensions of the social situation in which social behaviors are modeled influence very young children's tendency to imitate and their choice of recipients for their imitation. In Experiment 1, 64 18-month-old children observed either their mothers or an unfamiliar experimenter direct unconventional social acts to either themselves or an unfamiliar adult. The modeled acts either took place at a distance or involved direct contact of the recipient. Children who observed proximal acts directed to another person were more likely than the others to direct their own imitation to that person. This finding persisted into later trials, in the absence of further modeling, and was replicated in a second sample of 40 children. In that second experiment, the children's overall likelihood of imitating the model's act was reliably influenced by whether or not the model had provided the recipient with a verbal explanation of her action. Only children who had observed labeled acts showed generalized imitation in a later transfer trial. Thus, the children's knowledge of what modeled acts meant determined whether or not they would imitate, and their experience as recipients versus witnesses of modeling determined whether they would use what they had learned as a means of interacting with someone other than themselves.

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