The Pedagogue, the Engineer, and the Friend

Human Nature 31 (4):462-482 (2020)
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Abstract

Humans can follow different social learning strategies, sometimes oriented toward the models’ characteristics. The goal of the present study was to explore which who-strategy is preferentially followed in the technological context based on the models’ psychological characteristics. We identified three potential who-strategies: Copy the pedagogue, copy the engineer, and copy the friend. We developed a closed-group micro-society paradigm in which participants had to build the highest possible towers. Participants began with an individual building phase. Then, they were gathered to discuss the best solutions to increase tower height. After this discussion phase, they had to make a new building attempt, followed by another discussion phase, and so forth for a total of six building phases and five discussion rounds. This methodology allowed us to create an attraction score for each participant. We also assessed participants’ theory-of-mind skills, technical-reasoning skills, and prosocialness to predict participants’ attraction scores based on these measures. Results show that we learn from engineers because they are the most successful. Their attraction power is not immediate, but after they have been identified as attractors, their technique is copied irrespective of their pedagogy or friendliness. These findings open avenues for the study of the cognitive bases of human technological culture.

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