Naïve Sociology – The Core Processes of Learning and Acting in Social Groups
Extended research has supported the idea that the capacity to represent and think in social categories constitutes a fundamental characteristic of the human cognitive system; even human infants and young children are sensitive to the boundaries of certain social groups. However, the function this capacity serves is still debated. A novel proposal to explain this phenomenon is that during social categorization the human mind aims at mapping out social groups defined by a certain set of shared knowledge. The categorization of social partners has important epistemic advantages for humans, most prominently at the beginning of their life: it serves the purpose of identifying reliable sources of information for the sake of cultural knowledge acquisition.
The presentation will focus on two sets of empirical studies that are in line with the above proposal. The first one underlines that children are ready to selectively trust and learn from in-group teachers when their demonstration involves culturally determined information. The second set of studies grasp the basic cognitive process that enables adequate, fast behavioral adjustments in social situations, namely the availability of online, quasi-automatic knowledge detection in adults.
Ildikó Király is an Associate Professor at the Cognitive Psychology Department of Eötvös Loránd University Budapest. Her research focuses on social cognition, most importantly on the understanding of social learning mechanisms and the basic processes underlying social interactions, like understanding others’ perspectives and the theory of other minds. Recent publications of hers include Beyond rational imitation: learning arbitrary means actions from communicative demonstrations, Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 2013 or Social category formation is induced by cues of sharing knowledge in young children, 2014 Plos One. She currently works on a model that proposes that the function of naïve sociology, namely the need for categorization of social partners, has important epistemic advantages for humans: the identification of reliable sources of information for the sake of fast cultural knowledge acquisition.