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Toddlers copy peers to fit in, apes don't

Toddlers copy peers to fit in, apes don
Highlights

The tendency to adjust behaviour and preferences just to fit in a group or community appears in children at an age as early as two years -- but not so in our close relatives like chimpanzees and orangutans, a new research shows.

London: The tendency to adjust behaviour and preferences just to fit in a group or community appears in children at an age as early as two years -- but not so in our close relatives like chimpanzees and orangutans, a new research shows.

"Our research shows that children as young as two years of age conform to others, while chimpanzees and orangutans instead prefer to stick with what they know," said lead researcher Daniel Haun from Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. The researchers earlier found that both children and chimpanzees rely on the majority opinion when they are trying to learn something new.

But human adults sometimes follow the majority even when they already have the relevant knowledge, just so that they do not stand out from the group.

To find out whether young children and apes would also show this so-called "normative" conformity, the researchers presented 18 two-year-old children, 12 chimpanzees, and 12 orangutans with a similar reward-based task.

The results revealed that children were more likely to adjust their behaviour to match that of their peers than were the apes.

While the human children conformed more than half of the time, the apes and orangutans almost always ignored their peers, opting instead to stick with the original strategy they had learned.

A second study with a group of 72 two-year-olds showed that children tended to switch their choice more when they made the choice in front of their peers than when they made the choice privately.

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