Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Don't be an outsider!

04.11.2014

Very young children imitate their peers to fit in, while great apes tend to stick to their own preferences

Children and chimpanzees often follow the group when they want to learn something new. But do they actually forego their own preferences in order to fit in with their peers?


Children as young as two years old already experience peer pressure and adapt their behaviour to fit in.

© MPI f. Evolutionary Anthropology/ R. Barr

In direct comparisons between apes and children, a research team from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig and Jena University has found that the readiness to abandon preferences and conform to others is particularly pronounced in humans – even in two-year-old children.

Interestingly, the number of peers presenting an alternative solution appeared to have no influence on whether the children conformed.

From the playground to the boardroom, people often adapt their behaviour to those around them in order to fit in with a particular group. In humans, this conformity appears in childhood, but it is not evidenced in chimpanzees or orangutans.

"Conformity plays a central role in human social behaviour, defining and delimiting different groups and helping them coordinate their activities. It stabilizes and promotes cultural diversity, one of the characteristic features of the human species", says psychologist Daniel Haun of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, who headed the study.

This is not to say that it is always best to comply with the majority. Conformity can be good or bad, helpful or unhelpful, appropriate or inappropriate, for both the individual and the group. "The fact is that we often do conform, and our social structure would be completely different if this were not the case. Our study shows that children as young as two adapt their behaviour to fit in, while chimpanzees and orangutans stick with what they know", says Haun.

In an earlier study, Haun and his colleagues found that children and chimpanzees rely on the majority opinion when they are learning something new. This makes a lot of sense, as the group has knowledge that the individual may not be aware of.

However, other studies show that human adults sometimes conform even when they already have the relevant knowledge, just to avoid standing out from the crowd. To find out whether young children and apes also show this "normative" conformity, Haun and his co-authors Michael Tomasello and Yvonne Rekers presented two-year-old children, chimpanzees and orangutans with a similar task.

In these experiments, the children and apes were to drop a ball into a box that contained three separate sections. Only one of these sections delivered a reward: a peanut for the apes, and a chocolate drop for the children.

After familiarizing themselves with the box, each participant then watched while several peers deposited their balls into a different section from the one the participant associated with a reward. When it was the participant's turn again, he or she had to choose a section while the other three children looked on.

The results revealed that the children were more likely to adjust their behaviour to that of their peers than were the apes. The children conformed more than half the time, while the chimpanzees and orangutans practically ignored their peers and stuck to their learned strategy.

A follow-up study with two-year-olds showed that children were more likely to switch their choice when observed by their peers, but stayed with their original strategy when left alone. It is interesting to note that participants showed the same propensity to conform independently of whether the alternative was presented by one or three peers. This conformity among toddlers shows that the motivation to fit in emerges very early in humans.

"We were surprised to find that children as young as two change their behaviour to avoid the potential disadvantage of being different", says Haun.

The researchers are currently investigating the impact of environmental factors, such as schooling and different child-rearing methods, on children's tendency to conform.


Contact

Dr. Daniel Haun
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 3550-815
Email: haun@eva.mpg.de
 
Sandra Jacob
Press and Public Relations
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 3550-122
Fax: +49 341 3550-119
Email: info@eva.mpg.de


Original publication


Daniel B.M. Haun, Yvonne Rekers, and Michael Tomasello

Children Conform to the Behavior of Peers; Other Great Apes Stick With What They Know

Psychological Science, online veröffentlicht 29 October 2014 (doi: 10.1177/0956797614553235)

Dr. Daniel Haun | Max-Planck-Institute
Further information:
http://www.mpg.de/8731396/kids-peer-behaviour-apes

More articles from Social Sciences:

nachricht Amazingly flexible: Learning to read in your thirties profoundly transforms the brain
26.05.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Kognitions- und Neurowissenschaften

nachricht Fixating on faces
26.01.2017 | California Institute of Technology

All articles from Social Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet

Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.

A warming planet

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

Im Focus: Quantum Sensors Decipher Magnetic Ordering in a New Semiconducting Material

For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.

Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Rainbow colors reveal cell history: Uncovering β-cell heterogeneity

22.09.2017 | Life Sciences

Penn first in world to treat patient with new radiation technology

22.09.2017 | Medical Engineering

Calculating quietness

22.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>