Do as I Do, Not as I Say: Actions Speak Louder than Words in Preschoolers Learning from Others

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Claremont McKenna College, Psychology (CMC)

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To date, no research has examined children’s imitative abilities in the context of learning self-regulatory strategies from adults— especially when there is a conflict between communicative intent and later behavior. A sample of 84 4- and 5-year-olds performed a delay-of-gratification task after observing an adult perform the same task. Across four between-participants conditions, the model either did or did not state her intention to complete the task (positive vs. negative communication), modeled self-regulatory strategies, and then either did or did not complete the task successfully (positive vs. negative outcome). Children in the positive outcome conditions were more likely to imitate the novel strategies and successfully wait in both familiar and unfamiliar self-regulation tasks irrespective of the model’s communicated intent. We discuss implications for practice and interventions.

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© 2016 Elsevier Inc.

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