Neurocognitive mechanisms underlying social learning in infancy: infants’ neural processing of the effects of others’ actions

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Social transmission of knowledge is one of the reasons for human evolutionary success, and it has been suggested that already human infants possess eminent social learning abilities. However, nothing is known about the neurocognitive mechanisms that subserve infants’ acquisition of novel action knowledge through the observation of other people’s actions and their consequences in the physical world. In an electroencephalogram study on social learning in infancy, we demonstrate that 9-month-old infants represent the environmental effects of others’ actions in their own motor system, although they never achieved these effects themselves before. The results provide first insights into the neurocognitive basis of human infants’ unique ability for social learning of novel action knowledge.

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