Re: Associative learning versus imitation - JoM Article

Bill Benzon (
Mon, 19 Oct 1998 11:08:58 -0400

Date: Mon, 19 Oct 1998 11:08:58 -0400
From: Bill Benzon <>
Subject: Re: Associative learning versus imitation - JoM Article

Mario Vaneechoutte wrote:

> Bill Benzon wrote:
> > 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?
> >
> > >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.
> Thanks, Bill. References are what we need here, because I would have difficulties in
> understanding this. Can someone help?

Well, when I get home I can dig up some references.

As for understanding it; yes it's pretty remarkable. But this work is now 20 years old and
I'm not aware of any serious doubt about the observations themselves. Still, if you think
of the classic work on frog/toad vision and visual aiming -- zapping flies out of the air
with the tongue -- this seems to be roughly that order of task. And the "frog/toad"
regions of the human brain are operative at birth, though the cerebral cortex is
uninsulated mush.

> 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'm not sure what the question is. It was raised on another list by Jean Mandler
(developmental psych, U of California, San Diego) but she never elaborated. A
philosphically minded person might wonder whether or not the neonate INTENDED imitation.

Bill B

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