I am interested in the development of social understanding in infants and young children, and in how this enables us, as humans, to become cultural beings. Now having an infant myself, it is fascinating to see the theory unfolding in practice!
I undertook my PhD with Charlie Lewis at Lancaster University, in which I investigated selective social learning strategies in young children. Such strategies bias the transmission of culture through particular models, according to their particular traits. My experiments explored whether children are sensitive to a model’s age and expertise when deciding whether or not to learn from them.
Following the completion of my PhD I was employed by Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) on a Scottish Government funded project investigating the factors that drive cultural change, and how these may be harnessed to promote behaviour change for mitigating climate change.
I then moved to the University of St Andrews, where I worked with Andrew Whiten investigating the evolutionary underpinnings of cumulative culture. Here I was involved in exploring the emergence of different cultures of tool use and problem solving strategies using ‘open diffusion’ and ‘transmission chain’ experiments. These studies examined how solutions to problems are invented, socially transmitted and further improved upon, both within groups of children and across experimental ‘generations’. I took up my new position at Exeter University’s Cornwall campus in August 2015.