Cristine Legare | The Cognitive Foundations of Cultural Learning
Imitation is multifunctional; it is crucial not only for the transmission of instrumental skills but also for learning cultural conventions such as rituals (Herrmann, Legare, Harris, & Whitehouse, 2013; Legare & Herrmann, 2013). Despite the fact that imitation is a pervasive feature of children’s behavior, little is known about the kinds of information children use to determine when an event provides an opportunity for learning instrumental skills versus cultural conventions. In my talk I will discuss a program of research aimed at developing an integrated theoretical account of how children use imitation flexibly as a tool for cultural learning. I propose that the cognitive systems supporting flexible imitation are facilitated by the differential activation of an instrumental stance (i.e., rationale based on physical causation) and a ritual stance (i.e., rationale based on cultural convention). I will present evidence that the instrumental stance increases innovation and the ritual stance increases imitative fidelity, the dual engines of cultural learning.