Re: Associative learning versus imitation - JoM Article

Mario Vaneechoutte (
Mon, 19 Oct 1998 16:46:58 +0200

Date: Mon, 19 Oct 1998 16:46:58 +0200
From: Mario Vaneechoutte <>
Subject: Re: Associative learning versus imitation - JoM Article


> > > Mario Vaneechoutte wrote:
> > >
> > > > Let us agree that humans are much better in this. Then the question boils down
> > > > to: from what age on do babies imitate visually observable events?
> and Bill replied:
> > >
> > > >From birth. I don't have references immediately at hand, but the observations are
> > > quite well-known (Metzler is the name to search for). Look at a neonate and stick
> > > our your tongue or flutter your eyelashes. She'll imitate you.
> >
> Mario then asked:
> > Do we have the same interpretation problems than as we have with animals with regard to
> the question whether this is imitation or not?
> I'd say not because the baby's behaviour is:
> a) an astoundingly accurate copy - there's no way you could get a chimp
> or dog to immediately 'copy' an eye flutter and tongue wiggle.

Well, if human babies really imitate others' visually observable behaviour - while no animal
can, then humans should have something innate which lacks in other animals. I am not very
fond of this kind of miracle genetics. That is why I would like to know in more detail about
these 'baby imitation' studies, so we can at least consider the findings with the same
scrutiny as Goodall's observations on chimp "imitation" are dealt with here.


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