The art of convention : cognitive foundations of cultural learning
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While much research has explored the role of imitation in children’s learning of instrumental skills (Call et al., 2005; Carpenter et al., 2002; Gleissner et al., 2000; Lyons et al., 2007; Whiten et al., 2009), very little is known about the link between imitation and the acquisition of cultural conventional behavior. New research suggests that children rely on a variety of social and contextual cues when determining when to imitate with high or low fidelity and that these cues may reflect children’s interpretation of a task as either instrumental or conventional (Herrmann et al., 2013). Previous work examining children’s imitation has primarily used either unfamiliar, causally opaque object manipulation tasks (Herrmann et al., 2013) or complex instrumental tasks that make use of materials used in novel ways (Lyons et al., 2007; Williamson & Meltzoff, 2011), but research has yet to explore children’s imitation when presented with a causally accessible and familiar instrumental task. Drawing from an oft-observed classroom craft, the present study examined children’s reasoning about a necklace-making task when they were presented with either a conventional or an instrumental framing for the task and the cognitive consequences of this reasoning.