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Bigger knows better: Young children selectively learn rule games from adults rather than from peers


Correspondence should be addressed to Dr Hannes Rakoczy, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, Georg-Elias-Müller-Institut für Psychologie, Abteilung 4: Biologische Entwicklungspsychologie, Waldweg 26, D-37073 Göttingen, Germany (e-mail:


Preschoolers' selective learning from adult versus peer models was investigated. Extending previous research, children from age 3 were shown to selectively learn simple rule games from adult rather than peer models. Furthermore, this selective learning was not confined to preferentially performing certain acts oneself, but more specifically had a normative dimension to it: children understood the way the adult demonstrated an act not only as the better one, but as the normatively appropriate/correct one. This was indicated in their spontaneous normative interventions (protest, critique, etc.) in response to third party acts deviating from the one demonstrated by the adult model. Various interpretations of these findings are discussed in the broader context of the development of children's social cognition and cultural learning.