Paper short abstract:
This paper critically engages with evolutionary theories of social learning through a detailed investigation of the patterns of peer-group learning and pedagogical relationships between adults and children in China.
Paper long abstract:
Evolutionary theories distinguish between passive involuntary forms of social learning, as in the case of being dominated or coerced; and active voluntary forms, as in the case of emulating a prestigious role model (e.g. Henrich 2015). In this perception, social learning takes place when a learner, voluntarily or involuntarily, receives the pedagogy of someone who is willing to impart with it. Learning is unidirectional, involving clearly definable roles that correspond with distinct psychological processes. The pedagogical process in the context of dominance elicits fear in the learner, while the process based on prestige elicits respect. This paper critically engages with this conceptual distinction by exploring the processes of giving and receiving pedagogy in the learning environments of Chinese children. In particular, I investigate the way patterns of social status determine the often multiple directions of pedagogy and its modes of transmission. These dynamics are particularly pertinent to children's peer group learning. The pedagogical relationships between adults and children are characterised by various forms of avoidance and strategic receiving, which are not encompassed by the conceptualisation of social learning into voluntary and involuntary forms. I argue that the evolutionary approaches to social learning are useful in directing our attention to the psychological processes involved. Through a detailed ethnographic investigation, I critically engage with the conceptual model and argue for the need to study culturally-historically specific nature of social status dynamics; and furthermore, to investigate the psychological processes involved in pedagogical relationships without resorting to pre-defined roles and motivations.
Pedagogy: ethnographic and cognitive engagements