Demonstration of action with a new object to a child: information about the device or about the method of its use?



This study examines the role of social learning in the formation of the elementary concepts of objects and methods of action with them in children. The analysis of influence of adult’s manipulative activity of an with new object, observed by a child, on his further actions regarding the same subject in the conditions of formation of the child’s over imitation behavior was the main task of this research. The study involved 39 children aged from 4 to 6 years. According to the conditions of the experiment, the subjects were divided into experimental and control groups: in the experimental group experimenter performed a new set of actions with the stimulus object in its re-presentation; in the control group experimenter did not performed any changes in the action with the stimulus object. The results suggest that subjects of the experimental group played back a new set of actions of experimenter, while in the control group of subjects such reproduction was not observed. On the basis of the received data we can conclude that the behavior of the adult regarding to a new object is primarily a social factor contributing to the formation of the child’s views and concepts of objects - convention about the method of their application, not only the situation of observation of transformation of a new object occurring in connection with the actions of an adult.

General Information

Keywords: phenomenon of excessive imitation, social learning, mastering of the mode of action with an object, pre-school age

Journal rubric: Cognitive Psychology

Article type: scientific article

For citation: Kotova T.N. Demonstration of action with a new object to a child: information about the device or about the method of its use?. Eksperimental'naâ psihologiâ = Experimental Psychology (Russia), 2014. Vol. 7, no. 3, pp. 57–68. (In Russ., аbstr. in Engl.)


  1. Kotova T.N., Preobrazhenskaya A.D. Rol' namereniya vzroslogo v effekte chrezmernogo podrazhaniya [The role of adult's intention in overimitation effect]. «Psikhologiya. Zhurnal VShE» [Psychology: The Journal of the Higher School of Economics], 2009, vol. no. 1, pp. 152–158. (In Russ., аbstr. in Engl.)
  2. El'konin D.B. Psikhicheskoe razvitie v detskikh vozrastakh [Psychological development in children ages]. Moscow, «Institut prakticheskoi psikhologii» Publ [Practical Psychology Institute];Voronezh, NPO «MODEK» Publ., 1997. 416 p. (In Russ.)
  3. Call J., Carpenter M., Tomasello M. Copying results and copying actions in the process of social learning: Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and human children (Homo sapiens). Animal Cognition, 2005, vol. 8, pp. 151-163.
  4. Carpenter M., Nielsen M. Tools, TV, and trust: Introduction to the special issue on imitation in typically developing children. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 2008, vol. 101, pp. 225–227.
  5. Carpenter M., Call J., Tomasello M. Understanding 'prior intentions' enables 2-year-olds to imitatively learn a complex task. Child Development, 2002, vol. 73, pp 1431-1441.
  6. Carpenter M., Call J., Tomasello M. Twelve- and 18-month-olds copy actions in terms of goals. Developmental Science, 2005, vol. 8, pp. F13-F20.
  7. Horner V., Whiten A. Causal knowledge and imitation/emulation switching in chimpanzees (pan troglodytes) and children (homo sapiens). Animal Cognition, 2005, vol. 8, pp. 164-181.
  8. Kotova T., Shaginyan S. Is it resulting or intentional action that young children tend to imitate? In Budapest CEU Conference on Cognitive Development, January 12-14, 2012, p. 80.
  9. Lyons D. E., Young A. G., Keil F. C. The hidden structure of overimitation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2007, vol. 104, pp. 19751-19756.
  10. McGuigan N., Makinson J., Whiten A. From over-imitation to super-copying: adults imitate causally irrelevant aspects of tool use with higher fidelity than young children. British Journal of Psychology, 2011, vol. 2, no. 102 (1), pp. 1-18.
  11. Nagell K., Olguin K., Tomasello M. Processes of social learning in the tool use of chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and human children (Homo sapiens). Journal of Comparative Psychology, 1993, vol. 107, pp. 174-186.
  12. Whiten A. The second inheritance system of chimpanzees and humans. Nature, 2005, vol. 437, pp. 52-55.
  13. Whiten A., Custance D.M., Gomez J.-C., Texidor P., Bard K.A. Imitative learning of artificial fruit processing in children (homo sapiens) and chimpanzees (pan troglodytes). J Comp Psychol, 1996, vol. 110, pp. 3-14.
  14. Zmyj N., Daum M. M., Prinz W., Nielsen M. and Aschersleben G. Fourteen-Month-Olds' Imitation of Differently Aged Models. Inf. Child Develop, 2012, vol. 21, pp. 250–266.

Information About the Authors

Tatyana N. Kotova, PhD in Psychology, Senior Researcher, Laboratory for the Cognitive Research, National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:



Total: 3241
Previous month: 5
Current month: 1


Total: 703
Previous month: 2
Current month: 1