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I've recently became aware of the phenomenon of imprinting, in which baby animals start to associate with the first moving object with eyes that they see during a critical period of their infancy.

What interested me is that at the end of the imprinting article there is a snippet on the "baby duck syndrome" for humans:

In human–computer interaction, baby duck syndrome denotes the tendency for computer users to "imprint" on the first system they learn, then judge other systems by their similarity to that first system.[9] The result is that "users generally prefer systems similar to those they learned on and dislike unfamiliar systems."[10] The issue may present itself relatively early in a computer user's experience, and has been observed to impede education of students in new software systems.[11]

I'm interested if imprinting affects our ability to interact with computers, and if there is a "critical period" for learning computers.

For example, I repeatedly observed people in their 50s and above, who have not had any exposure to computers until their late 40s, fail to figure out how to operate a computer. A typical example is a bewildered user who has 2 monitors connected and is unable to comprehend or recall that a file can open on a monitor that is turned off, but is connected by cable. A "digital native" would be able to identify such issue in seconds. Is imprinting causing the difference between the experience of these two groups?

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Same for food, beauty, music etc. What you grew up with, will taste better, look more beautiful etc. I'd say that imprint and imprint are not the same concept here. One denotes a process that takes many years and results in a preference for a specific form of the object in question; the other takes place in a few minutes and results in one individual becoming your guide, example and "home base" for your development. I don't see how one relates to the other. – what Jul 27 '13 at 16:08
That people in their late fifties find it hard to learn something new (languages, social structures etc.) is not limited to computers and has little to do with imprinting and more with a lacking will to change one's life and a decreasing fluid intelligence. – what Jul 27 '13 at 16:13
Still, users in their fifties who was exposed to technology in their 20s appear to perform much better with modern computers than a people who started in their 40s – Alex Stone Jul 29 '13 at 10:44
Well, yes, because many aspects of computers are not completely new to them. The more new, the more difficult, was my hypothesis. People who have learned several languages in their teens and twens, also find it easier to learn a new language at a more advanced age, because they are familiar with the principles that govern a language and with the learning process. There is novelty of content, but familiarity of principle and process. – what Jul 29 '13 at 10:48
up vote 4 down vote accepted

The answer is no. Definition of imprinting is:

A rapid learning process by which a newborn or very young animal establishes a behavior pattern of recognition and attraction towards other animals of its own kind, as well as to specific individuals of its species, such as its parents, or to a substitute for these. Ducklings, for example, will imprint upon and follow the first large moving object they observe. In nature, this is usually their mother, but they can be made to imprint upon other moving objects, such as a soccer ball.

Imprinting is not connected to learning social skills but attachment. Also the problem of learning of computing is matter of fluid, crystalized inteligence and anxiety are better predictors:

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