Developmental psychology

Rational imitation in preverbal infants

Babies may opt for a simpler way to turn on a light after watching an adult do it.

Abstract

Here we show that if an adult demonstrates a new way to execute a task to a group of infants aged 14 months, the children will use this action to achieve the same goal only if they consider it to be the most rational alternative. Our results indicate that imitation of goal-directed action by preverbal infants is a selective, interpretative process, rather than a simple re-enactment of the means used by a demonstrator, as was previously thought1,2,3.

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Figure 1: Comparison of the methods used by 14-month-old infants to switch on a light-box 1 week after watching how an adult executed the same task under two different conditions.

References

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Correspondence to György Gergely.

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