Twycross Zoo is committed to supporting research lead by our partner universities.
This spring the Comparative Cognitive Research Team from the school of Psychology, University of Birmingham, are conducting research here at Twycross Zoo. This study is looking at social learning behavior and whether young children are able to copy good ideas from other children in order to improve their own actions. The children will be asked to partake in a fun activity, building a construction from sticks and plasticine and will be given a certificate and stickers for taking part.
WHO: They are looking to meet children from 4.5 – 5 years of age. Twycross zoo members only.
WHEN: 11th, 12th June, 26th – 30th July, the session will last for 30 minutes
WHERE: Discovery Centre at Twycross Zoo
Human culture is unique in the animal kingdom. We know that some of our closest living relatives, chimpanzees and orangutans, possess rich tool cultures. For example, chimpanzees use stones as tools to crack open nuts or sticks to fish for termites, but these inventions remain rather simple and can potentially be made by every chimpanzee. In contrast, cultural products such as cars, computers or space stations can only be found in human societies. This type of culture is so complex that no single human would be able to invent it on his/her own (cumulative culture). For cumulative culture to occur, humans not only need to be inventive, but they also need to transmit these inventions faithfully over generations. The ability to socially learn from others plays a major role for cumulative culture. This study looks at social learning in children to see whether groups of children are already able to produce cumulative culture themselves.
What is the study?
This study looks at whether young children are able to copy good ideas from other children in order to improve their own actions and products. For this, we run “chains” of 10 children across one or two days. Children are tested individually and are all presented with the same task (building a construction). Except for the first child in the chain, participants will have the opportunity to see what children tested earlier made. We want to see whether the constructions improve along the day, with the last child potentially being able to produce something that the first child would not have been able to make on his/her own (cumulative culture).
What does my child have to do?
Children will be asked to build a construction from sticks and plasticine and your child will be rewarded with a sticker for participation. With your permission we would like to video children whilst doing the task so that we can describe their behaviour precisely, e.g. how children started to tackle the task and how their construction is building up over time. Video recordings and any records of children’s behaviour will be kept securely at the University and will only be seen by members of the cognitive development research team.
Researchers will share their results with you when the study is finished.
For more information or to book your slot, please contact the research team on CogDevResearchTwycross@outlook.com. In the email, please indicate your child’s name, date of birth and your preferred day to come, and we will get back to you to arrange your visit!
More information about the researchers can be found here: