It’s all about the game: Infants’ action strategies during imitation are influenced by their prior expectations


Infants’ imitation is influenced by causal and intentional cues. Here we examine whether imitation is influenced by prior social expectations. Infants (mean age = 27 months) first played one of three games either: 1) copying the experimenters’ gestures, 2) establishing and working toward a shared goal or 3) a non-interactive control. They then participated in a separate imitation task involved both causally necessary and unnecessary actions and a goal. Infants who began by copying the experimenter were more likely to imitate causally unnecessary actions, infants who played a game with a shared goal were more likely to only perform causally necessary actions. Infants in the non-interactive control had no preferred response, and were least likely to achieve outcome as demonstrated. These results implicate the broader social context as an important factor guiding the actions infants choose to imitate, and have implications for the role of imitation in early learning.

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