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 Fixating on faces
26.01.2017 | California Institute of Technology

nachricht Internet use in class tied to lower test scores
16.12.2016 | Michigan State University

All articles from Social Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

From rocks in Colorado, evidence of a 'chaotic solar system'

23.02.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

'Quartz' crystals at the Earth's core power its magnetic field

23.02.2017 | Earth Sciences

Antimicrobial substances identified in Komodo dragon blood

23.02.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>