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Statistical learning in social action contexts

Monroy, Claire, Meyer, Marlene, Gerson, Sarah ORCID: and Hunnius, Sabine 2017. Statistical learning in social action contexts. Plos One , e0177261.. 10.1371/journal.pone.0177261

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Sensitivity to the regularities and structure contained within sequential, goal-directed actions is an important building block for generating expectations about the actions we observe. Until now, research on statistical learning for actions has solely focused on individual action sequences, but many actions in daily life involve multiple actors in various interaction contexts. The current study is the first to investigate the role of statistical learning in tracking regularities between actions performed by different actors, and whether the social context characterizing their interaction influences learning. That is, are observers more likely to track regularities across actors if they are perceived as acting jointly as opposed to in parallel? We tested adults and toddlers to explore whether social context guides statistical learning and—if so—whether it does so from early in development. In a between-subjects eye-tracking experiment, participants were primed with a social context cue between two actors who either shared a goal of playing together (‘Joint’ condition) or stated the intention to act alone (‘Parallel’ condition). In subsequent videos, the actors performed sequential actions in which, for certain action pairs, the first actor’s action reliably predicted the second actor’s action. We analyzed predictive eye movements to upcoming actions as a measure of learning, and found that both adults and toddlers learned the statistical regularities across actors when their actions caused an effect. Further, adults with high statistical learning performance were sensitive to social context: those who observed actors with a shared goal were more likely to correctly predict upcoming actions. In contrast, there was no effect of social context in the toddler group, regardless of learning performance. These findings shed light on how adults and toddlers perceive statistical regularities across actors depending on the nature of the observed social situation and the resulting effects.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Psychology
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Publisher: Public Library of Science
ISSN: 1932-6203
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 15 May 2017
Date of Acceptance: 25 April 2017
Last Modified: 11 Oct 2023 20:37

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