Perceptual Development: Imitation

Imitation is a powerful learning mechanism in human beings, and it is a capacity that begins early in childhood. Before children learn through verbal instructions, they learn through imitation. A three-year-old will rummage through her mother's purse to find lipstick to apply to her face. Children crawl up to their parents' computers and poke the keys. They do these things despite being told that they should not, suggesting that imitation is not due to Skinnerian conditioning. Nor are these behaviors the result of independent invention and chance motor movement. These everyday events illustrate a basic human capacity: Children perceive others' actions and are motivated to imitate what they see. Other animals imitate in rudimentary ways, but scientists agree that Homo sapiens is the most imitative ...

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