Re: neonatal imitation

Wed, 21 Oct 1998 09:09:05 -0400 (EDT)

Subject: Re: neonatal imitation
Date: Wed, 21 Oct 1998 09:09:05 -0400 (EDT)

So to summarise the debate so far:

a) we wonder if animals (eg. chimps, following Goddall, or dolphins
in Sue's latest JoM article) imitate more than they are given credit

b) correspondingly, we wonder if humans (especially human neonates),
are less imitative than they are given credit for.

These are reasonable hypotheses. But do they necessarily impinge
upon the definition of memetics as the study of imitated behaviour?

In my studies of football, I am having some trouble demonstrating
that footballers imitate each other. They exhibit stereotypical
behaviours which seem to be related to their position in the team,
but it is possible that they learn these from coaches as youngsters,
and then subsequent change in behaviour is largely a function of
their fitness and other random factors (eg. the weather on any
particular match day etc.).

I am worried about this, since if behaviour is not imitated, it
becomes very difficult to talk about transmission/replication of
behaviour and then we lose the central element in the Darwinian
variation-transmission-selection algorithm.

This seems to cut very deep into the whole issue of whether
behavioural culture evolves (in the Darwinian ie.
variation-transmission-selection sense) or not.

If we go through an intense imitative phase as children, and then
imitate very little later.....

Where is memetics if you can't teach old dogs new tricks????


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