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Development of Imitation- article notes

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David Haley

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The development of imitation
In order to imitate
Humans must appropriately extract the key elements from the information of others’
body movements, which constantly change over time
Mentally assemble the extracted elements
Control our own bodies to replicate the actions accurately
2 aspects of imitations
Methods and techniques of making and using tools (not genetically transmitted)
An observer can efficiently acquire the adaptive skills specific to his or her group,
without depending solely on trial and error or on individual learning
Permits such information to be transmitted across generations as aspects of
Ensure successful communication with others in order to ensure survival
Predict and understand the behavior of others with the same mental state as
Ability to understand intentions, goals, beliefs and thoughts (theory of mind)
Imitation is believed to play an especially important role in the imaginative ability to
conceive of an object not presently visible
Serve as a prerequisite for representing an object by abstract thought
Humans vs. chimpanzees
Body imitation is difficult not just for monkeys but for chimpanzees as well
Myowa-Yamokoshi and Matsuzawa
Purpose: degree to which imitation in adult chimp is limited, compared to that in
Face-to-face situations: human model used an object to perform meaningless
actions that were not related to the intended function of the object
48 action types were presented. Following variables:

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Number of objects to manipulate and the direction of manipulation
The motor pattern- that is, patterns that were familiar or not familiar to the
Results: minimal imitation of the actions that were rpesented to the chimps
without practice.
Chimps foung it more difficult to perform actions that involved manipulating
one object than those that involved manipulating one object toward another
object or manipulating one object toward oneself.
Reproduced actions involving familiar motor patterns more easily ( frequency
was low)
For chimps: information about an object that was being manipulated by a model
(shape, direction, function) served as a useful clue for reproduction.
Information about the body movement of another individual (motor patterns) did
not easily translate into clues for reproducing the actions
When only observed the actions, there was very minimal imitation even of the
motor patterns that are familiar
Can humans imitate form the time of birth?
Meltzoff and Moore- even newborn humans possess the ability to perform imitation
with parts of their bodies that they cannot even see themselves
Facial expressions such as protruding their tongues or opening their mouths
(Neonatal imitation)
Inherent body-mapping capability- Active intermodal mapping (AIM)
Develops with age and eventually allows humans to develop the ability to imitate
more complex behaviors

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If neonatal imitation is the origin of imitation behavior, and if AIM- which
enables imitation- is an ability unique to humans, then imitation immediately
after birth should be present only in humans
Clear proof of the existence of neonatal imitation was found only in newborn
Shared by humans and chimps
Mechanisms supporting neonatal imitation
Ability of adult chimpanzees to map the bodies of others onto their own body images
is limited- difficulty with imitation
Neonatal imitation-level mapping limited to a certain body region is possible eve
among newborn chimpanzees.
Gap in imitation development between the two species occurs because the
mechanism of neonatal imitation differs from that of later imitation, which appears
at approximately 8-12 months of age in humans
Neonatal imitation cannot be explained by primordial reflex theory. This is because
human and chimpanzee infants are able to differentiate and imitate at least two
different expressions- namely, tongue protrusion and mouth opening.
It is possible to perform imitative actions limited to the neonatal imitation level
without performing body mapping between ones own body and anothers
Baron-Cohen- human neonates do not perceive stimuli via specific sensory
modalities with specialized cortical nerve pathways. Instead, the stimuli are
perceived in a synesthetic, amodal state on the subcortical level.
Human infants perceive stimulus traits without separating sight and touch. (unique
amodal sensory style of newborn infants)
Amodal sensory perception continues until nerve pathways develop on the cortical
levels for each modality (6-8 weeks)
Perceive strength or spped of a stimulus frm its energy
Time or spatial frequency from its texture
Long period structure frm its rhythm;
Position or direction of movement from its orientation
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