Volume 33, Issue 4 p. 476-488
Original Article

Young children use pedagogical cues to modulate the strength of normative inferences

Lucas P. Butler

Corresponding Author

Lucas P. Butler

University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, USA

Correspondence should be addressed to Lucas P. Butler, Department of Human Development and Quantitative Methodology, University of Maryland, 3304 Benjamin Building, College Park, MD 20742, USA (email: [email protected]).Search for more papers by this author
Marco F. H. Schmidt

Marco F. H. Schmidt

Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany

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Jessica Bürgel

Jessica Bürgel

Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany

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Michael Tomasello

Michael Tomasello

Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany

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First published: 04 August 2015
Citations: 13

Abstract

Young children understand pedagogical demonstrations as conveying generic, kind-relevant information. But, in some contexts, they also see almost any confident, intentional action on a novel artefact as normative and thus generic, regardless of whether this action was pedagogically demonstrated for them. Thus, although pedagogy may not be necessary for inferences to the generic, it may nevertheless be sufficient to produce inductive inferences on which the child relies more strongly. This study addresses this tension by bridging the literature on normative reasoning with that on social learning and inductive inference. Three-year-old children learned about a novel artefact from either a pedagogical or non-pedagogical demonstration, and then, a series of new actors acted on that artefact in novel ways. Although children protested normatively in both conditions (e.g., ‘No, not like that’), they persisted longer in enforcing the learned norms in the face of repeated non-conformity by the new actors. This finding suggests that not all generic, normative inferences are created equal, but rather they depend – at least for their strength – on the nature of the acquisition process.