Third-Party Preferences for Imitators in Preverbal Infants

TitleThird-Party Preferences for Imitators in Preverbal Infants
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsPowell, LJ, Spelke, ES
JournalOpen Mind
Pagination61 - 71
Date Published12/2018
Keywordsimitation, infancy, social cognition

Participants in social interactions often imitate one another, thereby enhancing their affiliation. Here we probe the nature and early development of imitation-based affiliation through studies of infants’ preferences for animated characters who imitate, or are imitated by, other characters. Four experiments provide evidence that preverbal infants preferentially attend to and approach individuals who imitate others. This preferential engagement is elicited by the elements of mimicry in simple acts of helping. It does not, however, extend to the targets of imitation in these interactions. This set of findings suggests infants’ imitation-based preferences are not well explained by homophily, prestige, or familiarity. We propose instead that infants perceive imitation as an indicator of valuable attributes in a potential social partner, including the capacity and motivation for social attention and coordinated action.

Short TitleOpen Mind

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  • CBMM Funded