Say hello to two of my favourite humans on the planet: Arthur and Ben (waves in a rather exaggerated manner)
They live in Merka although their mummy (sic) and daddy are English. Very English.
Just spending a little time with them makes it really clear how important copying is to the younger members of our species. Infact it’s what they do all day long. They try out words, sounds, expressions and behaviours that they’ve seen elsewhere (mostly from their immediate family and their playmates but often before they understand what the thing is that they’re doing). It’s their number 1 learning strategy. They’re doing what the NLP gang call “modelling”: that is, copying
What they’re not doing is considering information from the outside world, processing it, weighing the pros and cons of different courses of action and then acting. No, they’re just copying. It’s the most brilliant gift to our species: it allows us to learn rapidly from each other, not just as infants but all through our life. In all kinds of situations.
Of course, you might think that it’s important only for kids (unfortunately puberty doesn’t switch the mechanism off so we all keep it front and centre) or for unimportant or superficial things (Alex has recently showed how terminology/jargon spreads through academic communities on the basis of copying and you will no doubt remember the observation of Thomas Kuhn that the great scientific revolutions spread by folk copying what their peers are doing and seem to be finding useful rather than by weighing the evidence). But it’s the same stuff – the same underlying mechanism that the boys are driven by.
This is what drives the spread of ideas, opinions and behaviours: our copycat selves.
Without it we wouldn’t have anything like culture or advancement of learning – it’d be really hard for anything to be transmitted across populations and as a result, we’d certainly be a lot more stupid, individually and collectively. But at least we wouldn’t have bad trendspotters because nothing would spread.
With it, we get to take advantage of what our neighbours (and their neighbours) have invented or copied themselves; without it, we have to work stuff out from scratch which would tend to favour Ray Mears over you and me: some one who can come up with tricks on the spot….every time
Now, of course when it comes to thinking about own behaviour, none of us likes to see ourselves as copying machines (this seems to be one of those things our minds keep from us and our cultures tend to teach us otherwise also) but that doesn’t mean it isn’t so…
But out of the mouths of children, eh?