Although there are many ways for humans to learn, such as trial and error and independent discovery, using others’ experiences and knowledge is critical. Throughout the life span, one way to learn from others is through imitation—by perceiving another’s behavior and producing a matching behavior based on this observation. Reproducing the acts of more knowledgeable individuals is an effective way to learn instrumental skills as well as cultural rituals, customs, and practices. This entry provides an overview of imitation, including the mechanisms underlying it and its significance for human development and learning across the life span.

Neonatal Imitation

Scientists have long been interested in when imitation starts. Modern experiments, conducted in the maternity units of hospitals, have established that even neonates reproduce others’ actions. The average age ...

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