Re: Associative learning versus imitation - JoM Article

Robin Faichney (
Mon, 19 Oct 1998 16:53:35 +0100

Date: Mon, 19 Oct 1998 16:53:35 +0100
From: Robin Faichney <>
Subject: Re: Associative learning versus imitation - JoM Article
In-Reply-To: <>

In message <>, Mario Vaneechoutte
<> writes
>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.

Colwyn Trevarthen has done work on this. I recall a talk
way back in '81 when he described the facial and vocal
modelling behaviour of neonates. Certainly convinced me
that this is genetic. And I suspect a lot more has been
done since then. I suggest a citation search on "C
Trevarthen". Here's a citation that I believe is relevant,
but I can't guarantee it:

AUTHOR = "C. Trevarthen",
TITLE = "Emotions in Infancy: Regulators of Contact and Relationships
with Persons",
EDITOR = "K.R. Scherer and P. Ekman",
BOOKTITLE = "Approaches to Emotion",
PUBLISHER = "Erlbaum",
ADDRESS = "Hillsdale, New Jersey",
YEAR = 1984

Incidentally, for what it is worth, on the basis of
Trevarthen's work, and assuming that modelling
behaviour is basically empathic, I came to the
conclusion some time back that a genetic predisposition
to empathy is the main foundation of memetics. For
the connection between modelling (or mimetic) behaviour
and empathy, see several of the papers in:

EDITOR = "Nancy Eisenberg and Janet Strayer",
TITLE = "Empathy and its Development",
PUBLISHER = "Cambridge University Press",
ADDRESS = "Cambridge",
YEAR = 1990

I don't work in this area now, but nevertheless if
anyone does end up writing about the genetic empathy-
memetics connection, and unless of course it has
already come up elsewhere, I'd appreciate a mention!

Robin Faichney

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