Research studies have shown that children who want rewards often display social skills which can innovate and change human culture. A Zoologist of Durham University in England, Rachel Kendal and her colleagues conducted a study by grouping kids children of 3 to 4 year olds together to solve puzzles in order to get sticker rewards. They find that children, and not chimpanzees or capuchin monkeys, can solve more multipart tasks in a puzzle box by using three social strategies. One, children who have finished solving the problems taught the other children how to solve the puzzle. Two, children copied the actions of the other kids. And the third, the children who managed to solve the puzzles shared their sticker rewards with the other children who have yet to earn their own stickers.
The children who participated in Kendal’s study tried to reach the boxes which contain the food or sticker reward by shaking the sliding door from left to right and when that did not work, by pushing any of the two buttons in order to move the opening, the last thing the kids tried is to turn the switch in the boxes using one of the available colored holes in order to slide the door further.
Compared to the both the chimp and capuchins group which took 30 hours before a chimp figured out how to open the puzzle box, the group of kids only took less than 3 hours and several children in a group managed to reach the last level. The main difference between the two groups is not the hours but the lack of strategies spread throughout the chimps. The reason it took so long for the chimpanzees to solve the puzzle is because there was no shared knowledge or teaching techniques exhibited by the chimpanzee and capuchins group.
Kendal’s team have expressed that these four or five member group children have at least two kids who were able to solve a 3 stage puzzle while the other members reached the second stage. Compared to the chimps and capuchins group, rarely one can manage to reach beyond stage one. Researchers have noted that in primates, there is no sharing of rewards or teaching methods employed. The Chimpanzees copied each other actions during the early stages but not during the higher stages.
According to Kendal herself, there is a big difference between both the chimpanzees and capuchins and the kids. The contrast in supporting cultural ability was made evident during the experimental stage. Kendal’s research is the first to use the same method in order to study the difference between the social learning’s of three different species.
There have been previous researches regarding grouped children doing problem solving tasks. However, these have mostly focused on teaching, sharing, and imitation among humans. Anthropologist Joseph Henrich of University of British Columbia in Vancouver have stated that these kinds of behaviors exhibited by the kids are what proves the human capability for knowledge and technological advances. But there has yet been no studies which explains how and why this procedure works.
In a published commentary in the Issue of Science, University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia Psychologist Robert Kurzban and University of California, Los Angeles Anthropologist H. Clark Barrett have both agreed that Kendal’s grouped children puzzle-box research study is a useful reflection of how people use their mental specialties like inferring other individuals intentions or language reasoning.