Exploring the nature of early social preferences: The case of music

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Exploring the nature of early social preferences: The case of music

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Title: Exploring the nature of early social preferences: The case of music
Author: Soley, Gaye
Citation: Soley, Gaye. 2012. Exploring the nature of early social preferences: The case of music. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
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Abstract: This dissertation aims to explore the nature of early social preferences by testing attention to a cue that might have evolved as a reliable signal of shared group membership – shared cultural knowledge. Part 1 shows that children attend to this cue when making social choices: Children both prefer others who know songs they themselves know, and avoid others who know songs they do not know, while other cues such as shared preferences for songs are not as powerful drivers of social preferences. Part 2 shows that this cue affects how five-months-old infants allocate attention to human singers. After listening to two individuals singing different songs, infants look longer at singers of familiar songs than at singers of unfamiliar songs. When both songs are unfamiliar, infants do not show preferences for singers of songs that follow or violate Western melodic structure, although they are sensitive to these differences. In focusing on familiar songs but not musical styles, infants may selectively attend to information that might mark group membership later in life, namely shared knowledge of specific songs. Part 3 investigates whether children are selective in the properties they use to infer that two individuals belong to the same group, targeting two potentially important social cues: race and gender. Specifically, Part 3 asks if children attribute shared musical knowledge to individuals of the same race or gender. Four-year-olds attribute shared knowledge to individuals of the same gender, but not of the same race. Five-year-olds attribute shared knowledge to individuals of the same race, but not of the same gender. In contrast, a control unrelated to group-membership – attributions of shared musical preferences – do not yield any dissociation between attributions based on race or gender. Thus, as they gain experience, children seem to adaptively update the social cues they use to infer shared group-membership. Together these results begin to elucidate the mechanisms underlying early social preferences by showing that children might selectively attend to the most reliable cues to shared group-membership, which, in turn, might allow them later in life to participate in the complex social organization that is unique to human societies.
Terms of Use: This article is made available under the terms and conditions applicable to Other Posted Material, as set forth at http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:dash.current.terms-of-use#LAA
Citable link to this page: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:9367007
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