The Role of Social Others in Learning

Posted on October 20, 2018

New research has highlighted the importance of social interaction in learning, even among infants as young as 9-months-old. Results showed that when infants were paired with another infant, they were more likely to learn than when they were alone.

The present study used neural activation to measure the rate and quality of learning in the young participants. All the infants involved in the study viewed a video and were randomly assigned into two groups – with or without a partner infant. The findings showed that in the paired condition, the infants showed more mature brain activation and neural response of the on-screen instructions than their peers in the alone condition which they believe is evidence of the early stages of auditory learning. Furthermore, there was a positive correlational relationship between the number of times the infants were paired with another infant and their learning process, i.e. the more times the infant was paired with another infant, the better the results in learning seen in the infants.

The researchers surmised that the novelty presented by an unfamiliar partner boosted learning; similar to a social facilitation effect, having a social other present heightens arousal which in turn increases learning because they model ways to approach new tasks as well as provide the motivation for learning.

The findings from this study replicated past research supporting the use of social interaction in enhancing learning. While it was previously thought that children’s language learning benefitted more from real live humans rather than TV screens, other studies propose that it is not the screen itself that leads to the drop in learning, but rather the lack of interactivity in traditional media.

Accordingly, infants were randomly assigned to individual or paired condition and given a video to watch on a touchscreen. The researchers noted that the infants were "quick to learn" that they had to touch the screen to start playing a video.

However, the results showed that neural responses in the individual condition were not as mature as seen in the infants in the paired condition, which suggests that difference in learning is more significantly contributed by social interaction, and less likely by amount of exposure time to the learning material, number of videos viewed or number of touches to the touchscreen.

Category(s):Child Development

Source material from Medical Xpress

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