Social learning and social cognition: The case for pedagogy

TitleSocial learning and social cognition: The case for pedagogy
Publication TypeBook Chapter
AuthorsCsibra, G., and Gy. Gergely
EditorsMunakata, Y., and M. H. Johnson
Book TitleProcesses of Change in Brain and Cognitive Development. Attention and Performance XXI
Pages249 - 274
PublisherOxford University Press
Place of PublicationOxford
ISBN Number0198568746

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We propose that humans are adapted to transfer knowledge to, and receive knowledge from, conspecifics by teaching. This adaptation, which we call 'pedagogy', involves the emergence of a special communication system that does not presuppose either language or high-level theory of mind, but could itself provide a basis for facilitating the development of these human-specific abilities both in phylogenetic and ontogenetic terms. We speculate that tool manufacturing and mediated tool use made the evolution of such a new social learning mechanism necessary. However, the main body of evidence supporting this hypothesis comes from developmental psychology. We argue that many central phenomena of human infant social cognition that may seem puzzling in the light of their standard functional explanation can be more coherently and plausibly interpreted as reflecting the adaptations to receive knowledge from social partners through teaching.