Learning Social Conventions in Early Childhood

Adults make inferences about the conventionality of others’ behaviors based on their prevalence across individuals. Here, we look at whether children use behavioral consensus as a cue to conventionality, and whether this informs which cultural models children choose to learn from. We find that 2- to 5-year old children exhibit increasing sensitivity to behavioral consensus with age, suggesting that like adults, young humans use behavioral consensus to identify social conventions. However, unlike previous studies showing children’s tendencies to prefer and to learn from members of a consensus, the present study suggests that there are contexts in which children prefer and learn from unconventional individuals. The implications of these different preferences are discussed.


About Giorgio Bertini

Research Professor. Founder Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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