A cross-cultural investigation of children's willingness to imitate prosocial and antisocial groups

Matti Wilks*, Jonathan Redshaw, Ilana Mushin, Mark Nielsen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Extensive research has documented that the antisocial behavior of others influences children's perceptions of and behavior toward them. In general, children report liking antisocial agents less, allocate them fewer resources, and are less likely to help them. Despite this, no research to date has explored how antisocial behavior may influence another socially driven behavior—imitation. Moreover, no research has addressed this question cross-culturally. To explore this, children were shown groups behaving prosocially or antisocially and were subsequently given the chance to imitate causally opaque actions (employed to highlight their normative framework) performed by these groups. Children from two cultures in Australia were included in the sample: Brisbane, a medium to large metropolitan city, and Borroloola, a remote indigenous community. Results revealed no impact of prosocial or antisocial behavior on imitative actions in either culture. However, we did identify differences in imitation rates between communities. Specifically, children from Borroloola persisted with imitation at far higher rates than children from Brisbane, highlighting the need for further nuanced research to unpack cross-cultural differences in social learning proclivities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)164-175
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Experimental Child Psychology
Early online date30 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2019


  • imitation
  • antisocial behaviour
  • prosocial behaviour
  • casually opaque
  • cross-cultural


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