Newey, Rachel

Rachel Newey
Start date:
October 2016
Research Topic:
Social Learning
Research pathway:
Research Supervisor:
Dr Richard Ramsey and Dr Kami Koldewyn
Supervising school:
School of Psychology,
Primary funding source:
ESRC Studentship

This project will investigate individual differences in social learning and mechanisms for improving individuals’ abilities to take another’s perspective. Perspective taking (PT) aids communication. Visual PT is considered to be ‘basic’ theory of mind (ToM) as it can be achieved via spatial knowledge alone and does not require a real understanding of another’s thoughts. We will research whether improving visual PT can transfer to improved solving of more complex ToM problems. Imitation is thought to be key component of social learning and, like PT, it enhances social interactions. Over-imitation involves copying behaviours that have no causal relevance and is a behaviour observed in both children and adults. Some refer to it as ‘mindless’ copying and it is not fully understood why humans over-imitate, although it is likely a combination of learning and conforming. By imitating what others do, individuals are able to freely and easily accumulate knowledge. Could this come at a cost? Social learning will be studied in the context of imitation, over-imitation, goal directed behaviour, problem solving and social motivations. How do social learning, imitation and problem solving interact?