Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

The power of imitation: Already in infancy, imitation promotes a general pro-social orientation toward others

Date:
June 27, 2013
Source:
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
Summary:
Being mimicked increases pro-social behavior in adults, yet little is known about its social effect on children. Researchers in Germany have now investigated whether the fact of being imitated had an influence on infants' pro-social behavior and on young children's trust in another person.

Being mimicked increases pro-social behaviour in adults, yet little is known about its social effect on children. Researchers of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, have now investigated whether the fact of being imitated had an influence on infants' pro-social behaviour and on young children's trust in another person.

In one study, eighteen-month-old infants were either mimicked or not by an experimenter. Later, when this experimenter or a different adult needed help, infants who had been imitated were more likely to help spontaneously. In a second study, five- to six-year-olds interacted with one experimenter who mimicked their choices and another experimenter who made independent choices. The researchers found that the children were more likely to trust the preferences and factual claims of the experimenter who had mimicked them before. These results demonstrate that already in infancy mimicry promotes a general pro-social orientation toward others and that in young children imitation is a powerful means of social influence in development.

Imitation is not only a means by which we learn from others. As adults, we routinely and automatically copy each other's movements, postures, and facial expressions, and this has a variety of positive social consequences. After being mimicked, we behave more helpfully and generously toward others, from picking up others' dropped belongings to giving more money to charity. Much less is known, however, about the social effects of imitation on infants and young children.

Focusing on the social side of imitation, the researchers tested in a first study whether being mimicked increased pro-social behaviour in infants, as it does in adults. To this end, 48 eighteen-month-old infants were either mimicked or not by an experimenter: In the mimic condition, the experimenter immediately copied everything she saw or heard infants do. For example, if infants pointed at the monitor, walked around the room, vocalized, or scratched their head the experimenter copied this. In the no mimic condition the experimenter never copied infants. Instead, for every infant action, she immediately performed a different one. When, in a second step, that experimenter or a different adult needed help picking up sticks that she had "accidentally" dropped or opening a cupboard, it showed that the infants who had previously been mimicked were much more likely to help both adults than infants who had not been mimicked. "Thus, even in infancy, mimicry has positive social consequences: It promotes a general pro-social orientation toward others," says Malinda Carpenter of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.

In a second study, the researchers were interested in how being imitated would affect children's susceptibility to social influence; in particular, whether being imitated would increase or decrease children's trust in others. To this end, 32 five- to six-year-old children first took part in an "imitation phase" in which an assistant showed them and the experimenters some photographs of animals. For half of the children, the assistant placed one photograph between the child and the experimenters and asked the child 'Which animal do you like best? Show me!' Once the child had made his or her choice, the two experimenters chose their favourite animals: While the mimic imitated the child's choice, the non-mimic made an independent choice. For the other half of the children, the assistant asked the child a factual question about the animals depicted, for example, 'Look! One of these three animals has poisonous spines and the other two do not. Which of these animals do you think has poisonous spines? Show me!' Once the child had made his or her choice, the two experimenters took their turns. Once again, the mimic imitated the child's choice while the non-mimic made an independent choice.

The children were then presented with two tests. In a preference test, the experimenters offered conflicting preferences for the contents of two identical boxes; then children were asked to choose a box. In a factual claims test, the experimenters gave conflicting information about which object a novel word referred to, and children were then asked to apply the word to one of the objects. "Children were much more likely to endorse both the preferences and the factual claims of the experimenter who had mimicked them," says Harriet Over of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. "These results demonstrate that imitation is a powerful form of social influence in children, as it is in adults, impacting the extent to which children are influenced by the preferences and opinions of those around them." Future research should investigate the boundary conditions of the positive consequences of imitation, and whether imitation ever has negative consequences, say the researchers.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Max-Planck-Gesellschaft. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal References:

  1. Harriet Over, Malinda Carpenter, Russell Spears, Merideth Gattis. Children Selectively Trust Individuals Who Have Imitated Them. Social Development, 2013; 22 (2): 215 DOI: 10.1111/sode.12020
  2. Malinda Carpenter, Johanna Uebel, Michael Tomasello. Being Mimicked Increases Prosocial Behavior in 18-Month-Old Infants. Child Development, 2013; DOI: 10.1111/cdev.12083

Cite This Page:

Max-Planck-Gesellschaft. "The power of imitation: Already in infancy, imitation promotes a general pro-social orientation toward others." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 June 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130627083037.htm>.
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft. (2013, June 27). The power of imitation: Already in infancy, imitation promotes a general pro-social orientation toward others. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130627083037.htm
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft. "The power of imitation: Already in infancy, imitation promotes a general pro-social orientation toward others." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130627083037.htm (accessed October 20, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Monday, October 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Court Ruling Means Kids' Online Activity Could Be On Parents

Court Ruling Means Kids' Online Activity Could Be On Parents

Newsy (Oct. 17, 2014) — In a ruling attorneys for both sides agreed was a first of its kind, a Georgia appeals court said parents can be held liable for what kids put online. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Best Foods To Boost Your Mood

The Best Foods To Boost Your Mood

Buzz60 (Oct. 17, 2014) — Feeling down? Reach for the refrigerator, not the medicine cabinet! TC Newman (@PurpleTCNewman) shares some of the best foods to boost your mood. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
You Can Get Addicted To Google Glass, Apparently

You Can Get Addicted To Google Glass, Apparently

Newsy (Oct. 15, 2014) — Researchers claim they’ve diagnosed the first example of the disorder in a 31-year-old U.S. Navy serviceman. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
First Confirmed Case Of Google Glass Addiction

First Confirmed Case Of Google Glass Addiction

Buzz60 (Oct. 15, 2014) — A Google Glass user was treated for Internet Addiction Disorder caused from overuse of the device. Morgan Manousos (@MorganManousos) has the details on how many hours he spent wearing the glasses, and what his symptoms were. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins