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Article

Peer Presence Effect on Numerosity and Phonological Comparisons in 4th Graders: When Working with a SchoolMate Makes Children More Adult-like

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IMPACT Team, Lyon Neuroscience Research Center, INSERM, U1028, CNRS, UMR5292, University Lyon, F-69000 Lyon, France
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EDUWELL Team, Lyon Neuroscience Research Center, INSERM, U1028, CNRS, UMR5292, University Lyon, F-69000 Lyon, France
*
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
These authors contributed equally to this work as co-last Authors.
Academic Editor: Umberto Castiello
Biology 2021, 10(9), 902; https://doi.org/10.3390/biology10090902
Received: 27 June 2021 / Revised: 5 September 2021 / Accepted: 9 September 2021 / Published: 12 September 2021
The presence of others helps us when we are good or an expert at something and hinders us when we are bad or novice. Such social facilitation or inhibition is well-documented in adults, but much less in children despite the omnipresence of peers throughout education. To explore potential peer presence effects on children’s academic performance, fourth-graders performed basic numerical and language skills (typically mastered at their age) either alone or with a schoolmate. For comparison, the same was performed in adults. We found that a schoolmate’s presence enabled children to perform more like adults, with a better response strategy and faster and less variable response times than children tested alone. This provides research-based evidence supporting pedagogical methods promoting collective practice of individually acquired knowledge. Future studies pursuing this hitherto neglected developmental exploration of peer presence effects on academic achievements might have the potential to help educators tailor their pedagogical choices to maximize peer presence when beneficial and minimize it when harmful. The present study also paves the way towards a neuroimaging investigation of how peer presence changes the way the child brain processes cognitive tasks relevant to education.
Little is known about how peers’ mere presence may, in itself, affect academic learning and achievement. The present study addresses this issue by exploring whether and how the presence of a familiar peer affects performance in a task assessing basic numeracy and literacy skills: numerosity and phonological comparisons. We tested 99 fourth-graders either alone or with a classmate. Ninety-seven college-aged young adults were also tested on the same task, either alone or with a familiar peer. Peer presence yielded a reaction time (RT) speedup in children, and this social facilitation was at least as important as that seen in adults. RT distribution analyses indicated that the presence of a familiar peer promotes the emergence of adult-like features in children. This included shorter and less variable reaction times (confirmed by an ex-Gaussian analysis), increased use of an optimal response strategy, and, based on Ratcliff’s diffusion model, speeded up nondecision (memory and/or motor) processes. Peer presence thus allowed children to at least narrow (for demanding phonological comparisons), and at best, virtually fill in (for unchallenging numerosity comparisons) the developmental gap separating them from adult levels of performance. These findings confirm the influence of peer presence on skills relevant to education and lay the groundwork for exploring how the brain mechanisms mediating this fundamental social influence evolve during development. View Full-Text
Keywords: social facilitation; social presence; peer presence; children; literacy; numeracy; reaction times distribution; ex-Gaussian model; diffusion model social facilitation; social presence; peer presence; children; literacy; numeracy; reaction times distribution; ex-Gaussian model; diffusion model
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MDPI and ACS Style

Tricoche, L.; Monfardini, E.; Reynaud, A.J.; Epinat-Duclos, J.; Pélisson, D.; Prado, J.; Meunier, M. Peer Presence Effect on Numerosity and Phonological Comparisons in 4th Graders: When Working with a SchoolMate Makes Children More Adult-like. Biology 2021, 10, 902. https://doi.org/10.3390/biology10090902

AMA Style

Tricoche L, Monfardini E, Reynaud AJ, Epinat-Duclos J, Pélisson D, Prado J, Meunier M. Peer Presence Effect on Numerosity and Phonological Comparisons in 4th Graders: When Working with a SchoolMate Makes Children More Adult-like. Biology. 2021; 10(9):902. https://doi.org/10.3390/biology10090902

Chicago/Turabian Style

Tricoche, Leslie, Elisabetta Monfardini, Amélie J. Reynaud, Justine Epinat-Duclos, Denis Pélisson, Jérôme Prado, and Martine Meunier. 2021. "Peer Presence Effect on Numerosity and Phonological Comparisons in 4th Graders: When Working with a SchoolMate Makes Children More Adult-like" Biology 10, no. 9: 902. https://doi.org/10.3390/biology10090902

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