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J Exp Child Psychol. 2013 Oct;116(2):487-98. doi: 10.1016/j.jecp.2012.10.009. Epub 2012 Dec 25.

Examining functional mechanisms of imitative learning in infancy: does teleological reasoning affect infants' imitation beyond motor resonance?

Author information

1
Department of Psychology, Ludwig Maximilian University, 80802 M√ľnchen, Germany. markus.paulus@lmu.de

Abstract

Recently, researchers have been debating whether infants' selective imitative learning is primarily based on sensorimotor processes (e.g., motor resonance through action perception) or whether inferential processes such as teleological reasoning (i.e., reasoning about the efficiency of others' actions) predominantly explain selective imitation in infancy. The current study directly investigated two different theoretical notions employing the seminal and widely used head touch paradigm. In two conditions, we manipulated whether the action appeared to be efficient while motor resonance was optimized to enhance imitation performance in general. The results showed that infants imitated the target action to the same extent in both conditions irrespective of the action's efficiency. In addition, in both conditions, more infants imitated the head action than in an additional baseline condition or in a condition where the target action was performed by another effector. The results suggest that 14-month-olds do not imitate novel actions according to their apparent efficiency but that motor resonance is an important factor in infants' imitation.

KEYWORDS:

Imitation; Infancy; Inferential processes; Motor resonance; Social cognition; Social learning

PMID:
23270792
DOI:
10.1016/j.jecp.2012.10.009
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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