Does morality influence learning? Selective imitation in 3- to 5-year-old children

Newcombe, Carla (2013). Does morality influence learning? Selective imitation in 3- to 5-year-old children Honours Thesis, School of Psychology, The University of Queensland.

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Author Newcombe, Carla
Thesis Title Does morality influence learning? Selective imitation in 3- to 5-year-old children
School, Centre or Institute School of Psychology
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2013-10-09
Thesis type Honours Thesis
Supervisor Mark Nielsen
Total pages 84
Language eng
Subjects 1701 Psychology
Abstract/Summary Children imitate for cognitive reasons (e.g., to acquire a novel skill) and social reasons (e.g., to affiliate with others). The aim of this research was to examine: (i) whether morality, as a social norm, influences imitative responses and (ii) how competing cognitive and social motivations affect young children’s learning. Children (N = 60, 3- to 5-year-olds) observed two protagonist puppets behave either morally neutral or one morally and the other immorally, establishing the social context. The puppets then demonstrated how to retrieve toys from three novel apparatuses using either an efficient action or an inefficient action, establishing the cognitive context. For one group of children, morally neutral puppets retrieved the toy with either an efficient action or an inefficient action. A second group of children observed a moral and an immoral puppet using similarly efficient actions. A third group of children were shown an immoral puppet who used an efficient action and a moral puppet who used an inefficient action. Children’s imitative responses and their prosocial behaviour towards the puppets were measured. As hypothesised, children were more likely to imitate an inefficient action when demonstrated by a moral puppet than when demonstrated by a neutral puppet. Contrary to expectation, children were not more likely to imitate a moral puppet if that puppet used a similarly efficient action to the immoral puppet rather than an inefficient action. As predicted, children preferred to affiliate with and reward the moral puppet. While the results support that selective imitation is a complex interplay of social and cognitive motivations, this novel experiment has established that morality can influence children’s imitative learning.
Keyword morality
learning influence
selective imitation
3-5 year old children

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Created: Fri, 04 Jul 2014, 15:32:01 EST by Danico Jones on behalf of School of Psychology