Understanding young children’s imitative behavior from an individual differences perspective


Research has shown that after observing a sequence of object-related actions, young children sometimes imitate the goal-directed aspects of the actions only, but other times faithfully imitate all aspects of the actions. In this study we explore whether this mixture of goal-directed and faithful imitation is based in part on individual differences between children. Forty-eight 2-year-old children (mean age = 26 months) completed a series of imitation tasks. Results revealed stable individual differences in children’s imitation—measurements of their imitative behavior correlated both within and between different types of imitation tasks. We further used Principle Component Analyses to cluster these correlated measurements into two factors, and the two factors aligned well with the concepts of goal-directed and faithful imitation.

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