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Child Dev. 1988 Feb;59(1):217-25.

Infant imitation and memory: nine-month-olds in immediate and deferred tests.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Washington, Seattle 98195.


The ability of 9-month-old infants to imitate simple actions with novel objects was investigated. Both immediate and deferred imitation were tested, the latter by interposing a 24-hour delay between the stimulus-presentation and response periods. The results provide evidence for both immediate and deferred imitation; moreover, imitative responding was not significantly dampened by the 24-hour delay. The findings demonstrate that there exists some underlying capacity for deferring imitation of certain acts well under 1 year of age, and thus that this ability does not develop in a stagelike step function at about 18-24 months as commonly predicted. These findings also show that imitation in early infancy can span wide enough delays to be of potential service in social development; actions on novel objects that are observed one day can be stored by the child and repeated the next day. The study of deferred imitation provides a largely untapped method for investigating the nature and development of recall memory in the preverbal child.

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