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Dr. Hanna Schleihauf

Staff Member

Cognitive Ethology Laboratory

+49 551 3851-378


Kellnerweg 4
37077 Göttingen

Coordination and management of the Marie Curie Action HelpSeeking

In my Marie Skłodowska–Curie Postdoctoral Fellowship I investigate the ontogenetic and phylogenetic roots of help-seeking behaviors. I thereby investigate (1) whether young children from different cultural backgrounds and our evolutionairy non-human relatives - chimpanzees - reliably recognize when they need help, (2) whether they can identify capable helpers, and (3) whether they strategically consider a helper’s willingness when deciding who to approach for help. I am especially interested in the evolution and development of two help-seeking domains: instrumental help-seeking (help to get something done) and epistemic help-seeking (help to acquire information). 

What have we found out about children's and chimpanzees' instrumental help-seeking?
We aimed to answer the question "Do children and chimpanzees seek instrumental help only when they need it?" Our preliminary data analysis suggests that in situations in which no help is needed (but available), children ask for help in 50% of the trials (even if they do not necessarily need it). In contrast, chimpanzees had a strong preference to solve problems individually whenever possible. Based on these findings, it can be assumed that children do not only seek help to receive instrumental help but also to socialize. 
Another question we asked is "Do children and chimpanzees strategically consider potential helpers’ efforts when deciding who to seek help from?" When chimpanzees had the chance to seek help from one of two potential helpers, one for whom it was easy to help, and one for whom it was hard to help, they did not show a preference for either. In contrast, when they chimpanzees had to solve the same problem on their own they tried to keep efforts low. Thus, they seem to consider their own efforts but not the efforts of others. Data collection with children for this study is still ongoing. 

What have we found out about children's epistemic help-seeking (across different cultures)?
Here we asked "At what age do children start to identify capable helpers when seeking epistemic help?" One way to identify whether a helper can provide you with reliable information is by evaluating the reasons that they underpin their statements with. We found that 4- and-5-year-old children (but not yet 3-year-old children) prefer helpers who underpin the information provided with good reasons (compared to helpers who provide bad reasons). Another way to identify whether a potential helper is capable of helping is by evaluating the rationality of their epistemic procedures - whether they seek out evidence or simply rely on luck. Children from age 4 prefer to seek help from someone who solved problems rationally in the past. However, only from age 8, children in the US and from age 6, children in China, preferred to seek help from someone who tried to solve a problem rationally but failed, compared to someone who used irrational methods to solve the problem but got lucky. We further investigate whether children from Kenya and the United States seek epistemic help (i.e., by socially acquiring additional information) when they need it, and whether they consider their social relationship with potential helpers when deciding who to seek epistemic help from. Data for these studies is currently analyzed.

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Engelmann, J., Haux, L., Voelter, C., Schleihauf, H., Rakoczy, H., Herrmann, E., & Call, J. (2022). Do Chimpanzees Reason According to the Disjunctive Syllogism? Child Development. doi: 10.1111/cdev.13861

Nguyen, T., Tunçgenç, B., Marsh, L., Markova, G., Horn, L., Schleihauf, H., & Hoehl, S. (accepted registered report based on pre-results review). The role of motor synchrony for social learning. Psychological Science.

Schleihauf, H., Herrmann, E., Fischer, J., & Engelmann, J. M. (2022). How children revise their beliefs in light of reasons. Child Development, 93, 1072–1089. 

Schleihauf, H.*, Stengelin, R.*, Seidl, A.†, & Böckler-Raetting, A. (2022). Spreading the game – An experimental study of the link between overimitation and the accumulation of conventional information in young children. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology213, 105271. doi: 10.1016/j.jecp.2021.105271

Schleihauf, H. & Hoehl, S. (2021). Evidence for a dual-process account of over-imitation: Children imitate anti- and prosocial models equally, but prefer prosocial models once they become aware of multiple solutions to a task. PLoS ONE 16(9): e0256614. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0256614

Frick, A.*, Schleihauf, H.*, Satchell, L. P., & Gruber, T. (2021). Carry-over effects of tool functionality and previous unsuccessfulness increase overimitation in children. Royal Society Open Science, 8, 201373. doi: 10.1098/rsos.201373

Nguyen, T., Schleihauf, H., Kungl, M., Kayhan, E., Hoehl, S., & Vrtička, P. (2021). Interpersonal neural synchrony during father-child problem solving: A fNIRS hyperscanning study. Child Development, 92(4), e565 – e580. doi: 10.1111/cdev.13510

Schleihauf, H., Hoehl, S., Tsvetkova, N.†, König, A., Mombaur, K., & Pauen, S. (2021). Preschoolers’ motivation to over-imitate humans and robots. Child Development, 92(1), 222-238. doi: 10.1111/cdev.13403

Nguyen, T., Schleihauf, H., Kayhan, E., Matthes, D., Vrtička, P. & Hoehl, S. (2021). Neural synchrony in mother-child conversation: Exploring the role of conversation patterns. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 16(1-2), 93-102. doi: 10.1093/scan/nsaa079

Schleihauf, H. & Hoehl, S. (2020). A dual-process perspective on over-imitation. Developmental Review, 55, Article 100896. doi: 10.1016/j.dr.2020.100896

Nguyen, T., Schleihauf, H., Kayhan, E., Matthes, D., Vrtička, P., & Hoehl., S. (2020). The effects of interaction quality on neural synchrony during mother-child problem solving. Cortex, 124, 235 – 249. doi: 10.1016/j.cortex.2019.11.020

Schleihauf, H., Pauen, S., & Hoehl, S. (2019). Minimal group formation influences on over-imitation. Cognitive Development, 20, 222-236. doi: 10.1016/j.cogdev.2019.04.004

Hoehl, S., Keupp, S., Schleihauf, H., McGuigan, N., Buttelmann, D., & Whiten, A. (2019). ‘Over-imitation’: A review and appraisal of a decade of research. Developmental Review, 51, 90-108. doi: 10.1016/j.dr.2018.12.002

Schleihauf, H., Graetz, S.†, Pauen, S., & Hoehl, S. (2018). Contrasting social and cognitive accounts on overimitation: The role of causal transparency and prior experiences. Child Development, 89(3), 1039-1055. doi: 10.1111/cdev.12780

Hoehl, S., Zettersten, M., Schleihauf, H., Grätz, S.†, & Pauen, S. (2014). The role of social interaction and pedagogical cues for eliciting and reducing overimitation in preschoolers. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 122, 122-133. doi: 10.1016/j.jecp.2013.12.012

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