Imitation: A Developmental Perspective

Imitation: A Developmental Perspective

Imitation: A Developmental Perspective

Imitation: A Developmental Perspective

Excerpt

The phenomenon of imitation in young children is a striking one. In our own research we have become increasingly impressed with the accuracy and extent of imitation shown by even very young children, and we have become increasingly interested in exploring the possible meaning of this phenomenon for human development.

Our major aim in writing this book has been to develop an integrated position with respect to knowledge about imitation. We have attempted to document the need for a synthesis of existing viewpoints and, in our first and final chapters, we have offered our own developmental, two-factor theory. Finally, since we are suggesting new lines of research, we have taken the first step in testing the usefulness of our theory by conducting and reporting the results of an exploratory study.

A guide to the organization of the book might be helpful. The first chapter provides a general overview of issues which we believe must be addressed in imitation research. In Chapters 2-4 we have reviewed theoretical and empirical literature. In Chapters 5-7 we present the method, results, and discussion of an exploratory study which we have conducted to examine developmental changes in children's imitation. In the final chapter, we re-examine the issues raised at the beginning of the book in the light of the information in the intervening chapters, and we elaborate on our two-factor theory. In this theory, we have argued that imitation serves two major functions--that of enhancing intellectual competence in the species and that of serving as a mechanism for affecting the strength of attachment bonds among human beings. It is our hope that future research on imitation will be enriched by espousing the developmental, two-factor approach we are advocating and that as a result of our arguments there will be an increasing degree of productive cross-fertilization of ideas among researchers.

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