Brief Familiarization Primes Covert Imitation in 9-month-old Infants

Abstract

Previous research reveals that 9-month-old infants who passively observe an experimenter search repeatedly for a toy in the Piagetian A-not-B error task covertly imitate these actions and manually search incorrectly when the toy is hidden in the B-location. Two experiments tested whether infants would also search incorrectly if the experimenter was replaced by a pair of mechanical claws or if the experimenter performed less familiar actions. Although infants did not commit the search error when tested directly without any familiarization to the novel actions, a significant majority of infants committed the search error following two minutes of familiarization with the actions performed on the A trials. These results converge to suggest that infants’ brief experiences with observing actions will facilitate the activation of a corresponding motor representation. Furthermore, the specific process by which this facilitation occurs varies with the similarity between the observed action and its motor representation.


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