The School of Psychology proudly presents:
Seminar Series 2008
"Splitting the fog of ignorance with the shining beacon of empiricism"
This Friday, at 3pm in room 302, we have the great pleasure to announce that our very own Dr. Mark Nieslen will present a talk titled "Kids, Copying, Culture and the Kalahari"
Dr. Nielsen used to be the live model for the torso section of Action Man figurines from Hasbro. Unfortunately this income stream was cut off when, in response to the global financial crisis, Hasbro decided to use just one model for the torso, limbs and legs of all future male figurines. Mark therefore has more time to dedicate to his' research career, and it is in this capacity that he has agreed to join with us on Friday afternoon. However, for old time sakes, at the conclusion of the talk Mark has promised to bench press a small Volkswagon.
Children grow up in environments saturated with tools and objects that they must learn to use. One of the most efficient ways in which children do this is by imitating. Recent work has shown that, in contrast to non-human primates, when young children learn by imitating they focus more on reproducing the specific actions used than the actual outcomes achieved. As a function of this behaviour children will routinely copy arbitrary and unnecessary actions in what has come to be known as 'over-imitation'. This talk will cover research by my colleagues and I in which we documented the developmental emergence of over-imitation in the second year of life and more recently provided the first indication that this phenomenon is a universal human trait by identifying similarities exhibited by Brisbane children and those living in remote Bushman communities in southern Africa. It will be argued that although seemingly maladaptive, over-imitation reflects an evolutionary adaptation fundamental to the development and transmission of human culture.