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Journal Article

Cross-cultural variation in how much, but not whether, children overimitate


Haun,  Daniel Benjamin Moritz       
Department of Comparative Cultural Psychology, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Max Planck Society;

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Stengelin, R., Hepach, R., & Haun, D. B. M. (2020). Cross-cultural variation in how much, but not whether, children overimitate. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 193: 104796. doi:10.1016/j.jecp.2019.104796.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0005-F16F-F
Children from Western industrialized populations tend to copy actions modeled by an adult with high fidelity even if these actions are functionally irrelevant. This so-called overimitation has been argued to be an important driver of cumulative cultural learning. However, cross-cultural and developmental evidence on overimitation is controversial, likely due to diverging task demands regarding children’s attention and memory capabilities. Here, children from a recent hunter-gatherer population (Hai||om in Namibia) were compared with urban Western children (Germany) using an overimitation procedure with minimal cognitive task demands. Although the proportion of children engaging in any overimitation was similar across the two populations, German overimitators copied irrelevant actions more persistently across tasks. These results suggest that the influence of culture on children’s overimitation may be one of degree, not kind.