Young children's learning in different social contexts

We know that young children learn in social interactions with others. Children learn a lot by just observing what happens around them and by imitating what others do. But do children learn in all social situations, and does it matter whom they learn from? 


In this project, we investigate how learning happens in children aged 0-3 years. The project consists of three studies in which we have researched how children learn in various situations, both in the lab and digitally in video meetings with a researcher. Furthermore, we have investigated how children learn from different social partners, such as unfamiliar and familiar persons (study 1), people who interrupt social interaction using smartphones (study 2), and social robots with social qualities (study 3). Our project gives a better understanding of what conditions are essential in making good learning environments and social interactions for young children. Project period: 2019- today. Please read the text below for more details about the individual studies:

Study 1 – Toddlers’ imitation: It is essential to understand the mechanisms underlying pre-verbal children’s learning. We have investigated toddlers’ social learning (imitation) from familiar and unfamiliar persons with a new test material in our lab. We developed a new and efficient test material for assessing imitation behavior that can be used in future research. Collaborators: Linda Johansen and Gabriella Óturai. 

Study 2: Toddlers and smartphone disruptions: It is vital to learn more about how children understand disruptions in communication and how they are affected by other people’s smartphone use in social situations. We investigated how toddlers interpret situations in which someone’s smartphone use disrupts social interaction. Families participated in this study digitally in a video meeting with the researcher. Collaborators: Gabriella Óturai and Mikołaj Hernik.

Study 3 – Young children and social robots: Can robots be social partners to young children? This literature review gives insights into how infants and toddlers learn from social robots, which are robots designed to interact with people. Collaborators: Vi Ngoc-Nha Tran, Catharina Elisabeth Arfwedson WangSy, and Lars Ailo Bongo.

Ph.D.-project with collaborating partners:

Research group of Clinical psychology, UiT: Solveig Flatebø (the PhD student) and Catharina Elisabeth Arfwedson Wang

Research group of Child development, UiT: Linda Johansen, Gabriella Óturai and Mikołaj Hernik

Department of Computer Science, UiT: Lars Ailo Bongo and Vi Ngoc-Nha Tran

Project period: 2019-2024


Catharina Elisabeth Arfwedson Wang

Financial/grant information:

The PhD-project is funded by UiT, the Arctic University of Norway. Helse Nord has given financial support to study 1 (HNF-1390-17).