Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Young children quickly adopt ritualistic behavior

Date:
September 19, 2013
Source:
University of Texas at Austin
Summary:
New psychology study shows even preschool children are quick to conform to ritualistic behavior while learning.

Although rituals such as shaking hands or saying, "bless you" after a sneeze don't make practical sense, these arbitrary social conventions give people a sense of belonging in a particular social group.
Credit: Spofi / Fotolia

Although rituals such as shaking hands or saying, "bless you" after a sneeze don't make practical sense, these arbitrary social conventions give people a sense of belonging in a particular social group. And according to a new psychology study from The University of Texas at Austin, even preschool children are quick to conform to ritualistic behavior.

The findings, published online in Cognition, offer new insight into how children learn the rituals and cultural practices of their communities.

"Attention to social cues and contextual information guides children's imitation, a key component of the development and transmission of cultural knowledge," says Cristine Legare, an assistant professor in psychology at The University of Texas at Austin and co-author of the study.

As part of the study, 259 children ranging from 3 to 6 years old watched videos of people performing a novel task (e.g, tapping pegs with a hammer on a pegboard in a particular sequence). The children viewed one of several types of videos featuring a single person or two people performing the task alone or simultaneously. For example, one person performed a particular action twice to get the peg out of the board. In another video, two people performed that action simultaneously. The verbal explanation preceding the demonstrations emphasized either the outcome of the actions (i.e., achieve a goal) or their social conventionality (i.e., engage in a group behavior).

When conventional language preceded two people performing the same actions simultaneously, children imitated the behavior with high levels of fidelity. They explained their actions by stating, "I had to do it how they showed me" or "I had to do it the way they did it." In contrast, when information about the outcome or goal of the actions preceded solo demonstrations, children were more likely to ignore the exact sequence of actions and felt less obligated to follow by example, claiming, "I can do whatever I want" or "I wanted to do it the way I did it."

The identical simultaneous actions suggested that the two people were from the same social group, which may increase the drive to affiliate with others.

"Seeing two people do the same thing at the same time is a strong indication that the specific form of the activity -- the exact way in which it is performed -- is regulated by convention," Legare says. "We speculate that when such uniformity is detected, children are disposed to ascribe it to social factors -- more specifically, to norms regulating how each person should act."

The researchers theorize that young children are already attuned to the difference between ritualistic behavior and goal-directed behavior.

"Our findings show that children come to social learning tasks ready to interpret them flexibly as opportunities for learning rituals or outcome-oriented behavior," Legare says.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Texas at Austin. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Patricia A. Herrmann, Cristine H. Legare, Paul L. Harris, Harvey Whitehouse. Stick to the script: The effect of witnessing multiple actors on children’s imitation. Cognition, 2013; 129 (3): 536 DOI: 10.1016/j.cognition.2013.08.010

Cite This Page:

University of Texas at Austin. "Young children quickly adopt ritualistic behavior." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 September 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130919122219.htm>.
University of Texas at Austin. (2013, September 19). Young children quickly adopt ritualistic behavior. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130919122219.htm
University of Texas at Austin. "Young children quickly adopt ritualistic behavior." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130919122219.htm (accessed October 22, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

First-Of-Its-Kind Treatment Gives Man Ability To Walk Again

First-Of-Its-Kind Treatment Gives Man Ability To Walk Again

Newsy (Oct. 21, 2014) A medical team has for the first time given a man the ability to walk again after transplanting cells from his brain onto his severed spinal cord. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Portable Breathalyzer Gets You Home Safely

Portable Breathalyzer Gets You Home Safely

Buzz60 (Oct. 21, 2014) Breeze, a portable breathalyzer, gets you home safely by instantly showing your blood alcohol content, and with one tap, lets you call an Uber, a cab or a friend from your contact list to pick you up. Sean Dowling (@SeanDowlingTV) has the details. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Your Birth Season Might Determine Your Temperament

Your Birth Season Might Determine Your Temperament

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) A new study says the season you're born in can determine your temperament — and one season has a surprising outcome. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Movies Might Desensitize Violence For Parents, Not Just Kids

Movies Might Desensitize Violence For Parents, Not Just Kids

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) A study suggests that parents become desensitized to violent movies as well as children, which leads them to allow their kids to view violent films. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins