Sensitivity to ostension is not sufficient for pedagogical reasoning by toddlers

AbstractTo investigate the role of ostensive cues in pedagogical reasoning, we explored whether toddlers, like preschoolers, would copy causally implausible actions following a pedagogical demonstration. Toddlers watched a demonstrator perform a two-action sequence (AB) on a puzzle-box that led to a reward. We manipulated the demonstrator’s intentionality and the causal plausibility of action A and examined how these factors influenced copying behavior. Although toddlers were more likely to copy A when it was causally plausible, they were not influenced by the demonstrator’s intentionality. Importantly, toddlers were no more likely to copy the AB sequence following a pedagogical demonstration vs. a non-communicative demonstration. Comparing behavioural data to computational model predictions for learners differing in their sensitivity to intentionality and causal plausibility supported an absence of pedagogical reasoning. These results suggest that sensitivity to ostension may be a necessary prerequisite—but is not sufficient for—pedagogical reasoning in a causal imitation task.

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