Investigating human-human and human-computer collaborative learning and memory in healthy ageing: the role of collaborator identity and social cognition
Crompton, Catherine J.
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Learning and memory abilities decline with age; however collaborative learning with a familiar partner has been found to improve older adults’ performance on memory tasks and reduce these age-related differences. However it is unclear whether collaborating with a familiar partner is more beneficial to learning compared with collaborating with a stranger. Similarly, it is unclear whether older adults collaborate similarly with human and computer partners. The aim of this PhD thesis is to understand the role of collaborator identity on collaborative learning, and to investigate whether collaborative learning is as efficient and accurate with a range of learning partners. While collaborative learning is a socially-based memory task, the relationships between collaborative learning and social cognition have not yet been explored. The secondary aim of this thesis is to use experimental collaborative learning paradigms alongside standardised and experimental measures of social cognition to explore whether social cognition accounts for a significant amount of variance in collaborative learning performance with different partners. Two studies compare younger and older adults’ learning with familiar and unfamiliar partners on different collaborative learning paradigms. Two subsequent studies compare older adults’ learning on computerised versions of the collaborative learning tasks with partners they perceive to be humans or computers based on recordings of natural human or synthetic speech respectively. In all studies, measures of social cognition were used to assess whether social abilities affect learning outcomes with different partner types. When comparing older and younger adults’ results, familiarity had no effect on learning or immediate or delayed recall performance. Older adults initially took longer to complete the learning trials but performed with similar efficiency as younger adults by the final trials. Younger and older adults recalled collaboratively learned information with comparable accuracy after a delay of one hour, however after one week, older adults recalled the route less accurately than younger adults. Social cognition was not related to collaborative learning with familiar partners, but was related with unfamiliar partners, suggesting that those who are better able to take the perspective of another person may benefit during interactive learning. Social cognition was related to collaborative learning with perceived human partners but not perceived computer partners. This thesis offers a new perspective on the interplay between social and cognitive function in collaborative learning with different learning partners, and explores the differences between younger and older adults when learning collaboratively. The findings are discussed in relation to cognitive, social, and technological theories. On the whole, collaborative learning can result in older adults learning with similar speed and accuracy to younger adults; while familiarity does not improve learning outcomes, perceived human-ness does.