There is near universal acceptance of the view that imitative processes play an important role in the early cognitive, social and personality development of the child. The role of imitation in linguistic development is also critical. Vocal imitation is the principal vehicle for infants' learning of their """"""""mother tongue"""""""" -- the phonetic inventory and the prosodic structure of their native language. Experiments in the investigators' laboratories suggest that infants' abilities to imitate have been underestimated by traditional developmental theories. Infants can imitate facial gestures at birth, a skill that was postulated to appear first at about one year of age. Recent findings with older infants demonstrate imitation among infant peers, infant imitation from television, and the deferred imitation over delays as long as one week. New findings on vocal imitation indicate vowel imitation in 18-week-olds and suggest that the capacity for vocal imitation may exist as early as 12 weeks of age. Moreover, experiments with nonspeech sounds show that this early ability is quite selective; infants imitate speech sounds but fail to vocalize to nonspeech sounds that mimic certain properties of human speech. Studies are proposed investigating two different kinds of imitative acts, gestural and vocal, during the first two years of life. Although each of the domains has specific concerns guiding the design of the experiments, of interest are the issues that are common to both. Examples of these common concerns are: the origins and basis of infants' imitative abilities; the nature of the stimulus most effective in eliciting imitation; the effects of experience and development on imitation; and the functional significance and social utility of this behavior. The proposed research brings together expertise from two separate disciplines, developmental psychology and speech and hearing sciences.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
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Human Development and Aging Subcommittee 3 (HUD)
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University of Washington
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Zack, Elizabeth; Gerhardstein, Peter; Meltzoff, Andrew N et al. (2013) 15-month-olds' transfer of learning between touch screen and real-world displays: language cues and cognitive loads. Scand J Psychol 54:20-5
Loucks, Jeff; Meltzoff, Andrew N (2013) Goals influence memory and imitation for dynamic human action in 36-month-old children. Scand J Psychol 54:41-50
Meltzoff, Andrew N; Waismeyer, Anna; Gopnik, Alison (2012) Learning about causes from people: observational causal learning in 24-month-old infants. Dev Psychol 48:1215-28
Marshall, Peter J; Meltzoff, Andrew N (2011) Neural mirroring systems: exploring the EEG ? rhythm in human infancy. Dev Cogn Neurosci 1:110-23
Marshall, Peter J; Young, Thomas; Meltzoff, Andrew N (2011) Neural correlates of action observation and execution in 14-month-old infants: an event-related EEG desynchronization study. Dev Sci 14:474-80
Williamson, Rebecca A; Jaswal, Vikram K; Meltzoff, Andrew N (2010) Learning the rules: observation and imitation of a sorting strategy by 36-month-old children. Dev Psychol 46:57-65
Meltzoff, Andrew N; Kuhl, Patricia K; Movellan, Javier et al. (2009) Foundations for a new science of learning. Science 325:284-8
Zack, Elizabeth; Barr, Rachel; Gerhardstein, Peter et al. (2009) Infant imitation from television using novel touch screen technology. Br J Dev Psychol 27:13-26
Moore, M Keith; Meltzoff, Andrew N (2008) Factors affecting infants'manual search for occluded objects and the genesis of object permanence. Infant Behav Dev 31:168-80
Repacholi, Betty M; Meltzoff, Andrew N; Olsen, Berit (2008) Infants'understanding of the link between visual perception and emotion: ""If she can't see me doing it, she won't get angry."". Dev Psychol 44:561-74

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