Sixteen-month-old infants are sensitive to competence in third-party observational learning
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Observational learning is important to development, but not all adult models are equally informative and accurate. Selectivity is important in observational learning. Past research studies have not always differentiated competence and confidence, so the current study investigated infants' selective imitation after observing third-party interactions, when confidence and competence were varied independently. Forty-eight 16-month-olds watched a model demonstrate the function of tools while displaying high or low levels of confidence and competence. Infants were significantly more likely to imitate individuals who were competent and were influenced less by their confidence level. Infants were more likely to reach for and use the working tool if the model was competent in her tool choice, but infant behavior was less affected by differences in confidence. Results suggest that by 16-months of age infants are sensitive to the competence of a demonstrator, suggesting a bias in social learning towards more valuable information.
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