Dr. Daphna Buchsbaum, Psychology Department, University of Toronto
Talk Title: What did you do that for: How do children, capuchin monkeys and dogs learn from others?
Brain & Behaviour Seminar Series 2017-2018
Abstract: Whether figuring out which buttons will get you candy from a vending machine or deciding which of two precarious branches to climb along to reach a tasty fruit, human and non-human animals are confronted with challenging causal and physical reasoning problems on a daily basis. Observing the effects of other individuals' actions is a valuable way to learn how complex objectsand artefacts work. But how does a learner infer which out of potentially many actions they see a social partner perform are causally necessary? Answering this question has implications for understanding the mechanisms underpinning uniquely-human cumulative culture. I will discuss a series of studies that use comparative, developmental and computational approaches to explore how sensitivity to social cues and to physical causal knowledge influence which actions learners of different species copy. These findings suggest that differences in copying behaviour between species can at least in part be explained by broad differences in understanding of intentions-especially the intention to teach.
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