Washington, Jan. 16 ANI | 7 months ago

A new research has claimed that it's often better to be surrounded by copycats than innovators.

By creating a virtual problem landscape, Indiana University cognitive scientists explored the dynamics, advantages and disadvantages of "social learning" -- the act of learning about the world by observing or imitating others.

Co-author Thomas Wisdom said that the reason is that imitators often make their own improvements to the original solution, and these can, in turn, be adopted and improved upon by the originator and others.

IU cognitive scientist Robert Goldstone, professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences at IU Bloomington, said that this kind of dynamic is found in situations where there are good ideas out there, but it's really hard for any one individual to find them searching in isolation.

To study the uses of imitation vs. innovation in solving problems, the researchers constructed a "problem space" using a computer game called "Creature League," a made-up and simplified version of such popular computer games as Virtual Pets or Fantasy Football.

The game itself involved a series of either 24 or 48 creature icons, from which each player picks teams of either five or six creatures. Participants in groups of up to nine players each try to increase their scores by choosing different creatures for their team over 24 10-second rounds.

The scoring function is not known by the players, but each creature has a certain number of points associated with it, as do various pairs of creatures when they are on the same team.

Players can either choose creatures from a gallery below (an innovation choice, since nothing is known about creatures in the gallery) or they can choose team members by copying creatures directly from the other players' teams (an imitation choice, since they can see the other players' scores).

The paper has been published in Cognitive Science.

(Posted on 16-01-2014)