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Childhood Innovation: Development, Facilitators, and Individual Variation

CARR, KAYLEIGH (2016) Childhood Innovation: Development, Facilitators, and Individual Variation. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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This thesis investigated the development, consistency and facilitators of children’s innovation in the physical, tool-use domain. Despite gaining increasing interest in developmental psychology, understanding of the ontogeny of innovation remains in its infancy. Following the formulation of an operational definition of innovation and associated criteria in Chapter 2, the innovatory ability of 4- to 9-year-old children was examined using the Multiple-Methods Box (MMB): a novel puzzle box from which a reward can be extracted using different tools, access points and exits. Findings reported in Chapter 3 demonstrated that few children innovated in the aftermath of social demonstrations of tool use (akin to innovation by modification); rather, they largely relied on the observed task solution. However, instances and rates of children’s innovation were seen to increase in response to inefficacious social information (Chapter 3) and when provided with additional time and explicit instructions/prompts to explore the MMB (Chapter 6). Individual differences in children’s innovative or imitative behaviour appeared largely independent of their performance on a battery of tasks assessing constructs related to innovation, as explored in Chapter 4. However, this study revealed some behavioural consistency in puzzle-box contexts, suggestive of consistent individual differences in children’s propensity, or preference, to engage in asocial/individual learning. Finally, in the intervention study of Chapter 5, individual achievement goals appeared of greater salience than cues to conventionality of innovative behaviour, which did not differentially enhance 8- to 9-year-olds’ innovation when presented with the MMB task in the absence of social demonstrations. Together, the thesis findings highlight the value of the dual study of imitation and innovation, in discovering adaptive trade-offs between the two, and the need to consider innovation in its various forms, owing to likely disparities in developmental trajectories, cognitive requirements, and primary difficulties. The educational applications and cultural implications are discussed.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Science > Psychology, Department of
Thesis Date:2016
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:24 May 2016 10:51

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