Becoming a normative being – Biological foundations and culture-specific socialisation of normativity

Humans are not born as full members of their societies but spend considerable time during their first years of life acquiring the norms, values, beliefs and habits of their cultural groups. This is a crucial developmental period both from the infant's perspective, who has to learn cultural knowledge, and from the parents' perspective, who have to teach cultural knowledge. In order to shed light on how humans develop into normative beings in their first years of life one thus needs to integrate the two perspectives, and thereby take into account that modes of cultural knowledge transmission vary across cultures. Specifically, we will investigate how infants' biological need to learn cultural knowledge is shaped by parents' culture-specific modes of teaching. We will focus on biologically prepared social learning mechanisms and investigate whether infants' abilities to understand norms precedes their abilities to behave normatively. In a next step, we will study how biologically prepared learning mechanisms are shaped by culturally-variable teaching practices in an older age group - for this, we will conduct an experimental study of parent- and toddler-behaviour across cultures. In further studies will ground the experimental work in everyday social interactions by observing how normative behaviours are taught and enforced in naturalistic situations in families' homes across a wide range of cultures. Across these studies, we will integrate physiological, neuronal, and behavioural measures, and combine them with naturalistic observations.

Contact: Moritz Köster

Collaborators: Shoji Itakura (Kyoto University),Joscha Kärtner (Universität Münster), Katja Liebal (FU Berlin)


Dieses Projekt wird gefördert durch ein Zusatzmodul (Freigeist Fellowship) der Volkswagen Stiftung.