Comprehensive Longitudinal Study Challenges the Existence of Neonatal Imitation in Humans

Oostenbroek, Janine, Suddendorf, Thomas, Nielsen, Mark, Redshaw, Jonathan, Kennedy-Costantini, Siobhan, Davis, Jacqueline, Clark, Sally and Slaughter, Virginia (2016) Comprehensive Longitudinal Study Challenges the Existence of Neonatal Imitation in Humans. Current Biology, 26 10: 1334-1338. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2016.03.047

Author Oostenbroek, Janine
Suddendorf, Thomas
Nielsen, Mark
Redshaw, Jonathan
Kennedy-Costantini, Siobhan
Davis, Jacqueline
Clark, Sally
Slaughter, Virginia
Title Comprehensive Longitudinal Study Challenges the Existence of Neonatal Imitation in Humans
Journal name Current Biology   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0960-9822
Publication date 2016-05-23
Year available 2016
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1016/j.cub.2016.03.047
Open Access Status Not Open Access
Volume 26
Issue 10
Start page 1334
End page 1338
Total pages 5
Place of publication Cambridge, MA, United States
Publisher Cell Press
Language eng
Subject 1100 Agricultural and Biological Sciences
1300 Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
Abstract Human children copy others' actions with high fidelity, supporting early cultural learning and assisting in the development and maintenance of behavioral traditions [1]. Imitation has long been assumed to occur from birth [2-4], with influential theories (e.g., [5-7]) placing an innate imitation module at the foundation of social cognition (potentially underpinned by a mirror neuron system [8, 9]). Yet, the very phenomenon of neonatal imitation has remained controversial. Empirical support is mixed and interpretations are varied [10-16], potentially because previous investigations have relied heavily on cross-sectional designs with relatively small samples and with limited controls [17, 18]. Here, we report surprising results from the most comprehensive longitudinal study of neonatal imitation to date. We presented infants (n = 106) with nine social and two non-social models and scored their responses at 1, 3, 6, and 9 weeks of age. Longitudinal analyses indicated that the infants did not imitate any of the models, as they were just as likely to produce the gestures in response to control models as they were to matching models. Previous positive findings were replicated in limited crosssections of the data, but the overall analyses confirmed these findings to be mere artifacts of restricted comparison conditions. Our results undermine the idea of an innate imitation module and suggest that earlier studies reporting neonatal imitation were methodologically limited.
Keyword Biochemistry & Molecular Biology
Cell Biology
Biochemistry & Molecular Biology
Cell Biology
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Grant ID DP0985969
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: HERDC Pre-Audit
School of Psychology Publications
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