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  • 2020silversteinphd

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Evaluating the replicability and specificity of evidence for natural pedagogy theory

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

Publication date2020
Number of pages169
Awarding Institution
Award date30/10/2020
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Do infants understand that they are being communicated to? This thesis first outlines issues facing the field of infancy research that affect confidence in the literature on this (and any) topic to date. Following this, an introductory chapter evaluates evidence for the three core claims of Natural Pedagogy (NP), and the compatibility of this evidence with alternative theories. This is followed by three experimental chapters. In Study 1, we attempted two replications of the study with the highest theoretical value for NP (Yoon et al., 2008). This study has high stakes theoretically, as it is the only study providing evidence for the most specific claim of NP that is difficult to explain by low-level mechanisms. Therefore, a replication of this result that included a reduction of possible confounds and a more sophisticated measure of attention throughout the task was of great theoretical value. In this study, we were unable to replicate the original findings. In Study 2 we went beyond the evidence for the claims made in the outline of NP, and instead generated a new, specific prediction that we believe NP would make. This is important, as theories are only useful if they can make clear, testable predictions. In this study, we pitted pedagogically demonstrated actions and simple actions against each other and evaluated infants’ transmission of these actions to someone else. We found no evidence for NP, finding evidence for preferential transmission of simple actions instead. In Study 3 we went beyond NP, and tested a clear prediction stemming from an alternative low-level theory for how infants develop gaze-following ability. We found evidence that infants learn to gaze-follow through reinforcement. Overall, this thesis contributes to the vast literature on infants as recipients of communication, as well as highlighting methods for conducting open and reproducible infancy research.