Developmental and Social Cognitive Neuroscience Seminar (Speaker: Sarah Beck)

Frankland 305
Life and Environmental Sciences, Research
Monday 27th October 2014 (13:00-14:00)
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What can children's problem solving tell us about innovators?

Part of the Developmental Neuroscience Seminar Series

Speaker: Sarah Beck, University of Birmingham

Are the particular characteristics that make some individuals innovators? We describe experimental and individual differences tasks with young human children that borrowed a task from the corvid literature (Weir, Chappell, & Kacelnik, 2002) to explore the development of innovation in humans.

A problem for previous studies was that performance across individuals was very varied, with around half of 7-year-olds solving the problem but no clear explanation for which children were successful. Comparing children’s performance on this hook-making innovation task to a battery of executive function measures suggested that innovation does not simply reduce to such domain general processes.

Subsequently we examined whether innovation success on tool-making tasks resulted from an ability to generate multiple possible solutions. We found no evidence to support this. Instead our evidence suggests that innovative problems solving in young children might be limited by the ability to focus in on one solution and to draw analogies between different problems.

We will discuss whether measures of innovation, even based on the same task, assess the same cognitive ability in children and non-human species.