Imitation is an advanced behavior whereby an individual observes and replicates another's. The word can be applied in many contexts, ranging from animal training to international politics.
In anthropology, diffusion theories explain why cultures imitate the ideas or practices of other cultures. Some theories hold that all cultures imitate ideas from one or a few original cultures, the Adam of the Bible, or several cultures whose influence overlaps geographically. Evolutionary diffusion theory holds that cultures influence one another, but that similar ideas can be developed in isolation.
Scholars as well as popular authors have argued that the role of imitation in humans is unique among animals. Psychologist Kenneth Kaye showed that infants' ability to match the sounds or gestures of an adult depends on an interactive process of turn-taking over many successive trials, in which adults' instinctive behavior plays as great a role as that of the infant. These writers assume that evolution would have selected imitative abilities as fit because those who were good at it had a wider arsenal of learned behavior at their disposal, including tool-making and language.
In the mid-20th century, social scientists began to study how and why people imitate ideas. Everett Rogers pioneered innovation diffusion studies, identifying factors in adoption and profiles of adopters of ideas.
Imitation is a replication of a meme.
That we are capable of imitating movements, actions, skills, behaviors, gestures, pantomimes, mimics, vocalisations, sounds, speech etc. and that we have particular 'imitation systems' in the brain is old neurological knowledge dating back to Hugo (Karl) Liepmann 1863-1925 (see Wikipedia). Liepmann's model 1908 "Das hierarchische Modell der Handlungsplanung" (the hierarchical model of action planning) is still valid. On studying the cerebral localization of function, Liepmann postulated that planned or commanded actions were prepared in the parietal lobe of the brain's dominant hemisphere, and also frontally. His most important pioneering work is when extensively studying patients with lesions in these brain areas, he discovered that the patients lost (among other things) the ability to imitate. He was the one who coined the term 'apraxia' and differentiated between ideational and ideomotor apraxia. In this basic and wider frame of classical neurological knowledge the discovery of the mirror neurons has to be seen, which was made in monkeys but of course holds for man as well.
fMRI human brain studies revealed a network of regions in the inferior frontal cortex and inferior parietal cortex which are typically activated during imitation tasks. It has been suggested that these regions contain mirror neurons similar to the mirror neurons recorded in the macaque monkey. However, it is not clear if macaques spontaneously imitate each other in the wild.
Neurologist V.S. Ramachandran argues that the evolution of mirror neurons were important in the human acquisition of complex skills such as language and believes the discovery of mirror neurons to be a most important advance in neuroscience. However, little evidence directly supports the theory that mirror neuron activity is involved in
functions such as empathy or learning by imitation.
Evidence is accumulating that bottlenose dolphins employ imitation to learn hunting and other skills from other dolphins.
 Animal behavior
Scientists debate whether animals can truly imitate novel actions or whether imitation is uniquely human. The current controversy is partly definitional. Thorndike uses 'learning to do an act from seeing it done'. It has two major shortcomings: first, by using 'seeing' it restricts imitation to the visual domain and excludes e.g. vocal imitation and, second, it would also include mechanisms such as priming, contagious behaviour and social facilitation , which most scientist distinguish as separate forms of observational learning. Thorpe suggested defining imitation as 'the copying of a novel or otherwise improbable act or utterance, or some act for which there is clearly no instinctive tendency'. This definition is favored by many scholars, though questions have been raised how strictly the term 'novel' has to be interpreted and how exactly a performed act has to match the demonstration to count as a copy.
In 1952 Hayes & Hayes  used the 'Do-as-I-do' procedure to demonstrate the imitative abilities of their trained chimpanzee 'Viki'. Their study was repeatedly criticized for its subjective interpretations of their subjects' responses. Replications of this study  found much lower matching degrees between subjects and models. However, imitation research focusing on the copying fidelity got new momentum from a study by Voelkl and Huber. They analyzed the motion trajectories of both model and observer monkeys and found a high matching degree in their movement patterns.
Paralleling these studies, comparative psychologists provided tools or apparatuses that could be handled in different ways. Heyes  and co-workers reported evidence for imitation in rats that pushed a lever in the same direction as their models, though later on they withdrew their claims due to methodological problems in their original setup. By trying to design a testing paradigm that is less arbitrary than pushing a lever to the left or to the right, Custance and co-workers  introduced the 'artificial fruit' paradigm, where a small object could be opened in different ways to retrieve food placed inside'not unlike a hard-shelled fruit. Using this paradigm, scientists reported evidence for imitation in monkeys. and apes  There remains a problem with such tool (or apparatus) use studies: what animals might learn in such studies need not be the actual behaviour patterns (i.e. the actions) that were observed. Instead they might learn about some effects in the environment (i.e. how the tool moves, or how the apparatus works.) This type of observational learning, which focuses on results, not actions, has been dubbed emulation (see Emulation (observational learning)).
 See also
- Liepmann, H. (1900). Das Krankheitsbild der Apraxie (motorische Asymbolie). S. Karger Publ., Berlin.
- Liepmann, H. (1905). Über die Störungen des Handelns bei Gehirnkranken. S. Karger Verlag, Berlin.
- Liepmann, H. (1908). Drei Aufsätze aus dem Apraxiegebiet. S. Karger Publ., Berlin.
- Liepmann, H. (1920). Apraxie. Ergebn ges Med 1: 516-543.
- ^ George Herbert Mead, Mind, Self, and Society; Kenneth Kaye, The Mental and Social Life of Babies, U. Chicago Press 1982
- ^ Susan Blackmore, The Meme Machine, Oxford U. Press 2007; Jared Diamond, The Third Chimpanzee, HarperCollins 1992.
- ^ In M. Bullowa, ed. Before Speech: The beginning of interpersonal communication, Cambridge U. Press 1979; K. Kaye and J. Marcus, Developmental Psychology, 1981, Vol. 17, pp. 258-265.
- ^ Marco Iacoboni, Roger P. Woods, Marcel Brass, Harold Bekkering, John C. Mazziotta, Giacomo Rizzolatti, Cortical Mechanisms of Human Imitation, Science 286:5449 (1999)
- ^ Rizzolatti G., Craighero L., The mirror-neuron system, Annual Review of Neuroscience. 2004;27:169-92
- ^ V.S. Ramachandran, Mirror Neurons and imitation learning as the driving force behind "the great leap forward" in human evolution. Edge Foundation. Retrieved on 2006-11-16.
- ^ Dinstein I, Thomas C, Behrmann M, Heeger DJ (2008). "A mirror up to nature". Curr Biol 18 (1): R13'8. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2008.01.044. PMID 18177704.
- ^ Krutzen M, Mann J, Heithaus MR, Connor RC, Bejder L, Sherwin WB (2005). "Cultural transmission of tool use in bottlenose dolphins". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 102 (25): 8939'8943. doi:10.1073/pnas.0500232102. PMID 15947077.
- ^ "Wild dolphins teaches others tail walking tricks". WDCS, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society. http://www.wdcs.org.au/story_details.php?select=20.
- ^ Zentall, T.R. (2006). Imitation: Definitions, evidence, and mechanisms. Animal Cognition, 9, 335-353. Full text
- ^ Thorndike, E.L. (1898). Animal intelligence. 'Psychological Review Monographs 2,' No. 8.
- ^ Heyes, C.M. and B.G.J. Galef, (1996). 'Social Learning in Animals: The Roots of Culture.' San Diego, Academic Press.
- ^ Thorpe, W.H. (1963). 'Learning and Instinct in Animals.' London, Methuen.
- ^ Hayes, K.J. and Hayes, C. (1952). Imitation in a home-raised chimpanzee. 'Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology, 45,' 450-459.
- ^ Custance, D.-M., Whiten, A. and Bard, K.A. (1995). Can young chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) imitate arbitrary actions? Hayes & Hayes (1952) revisited. 'Behaviour, 132,'. 837-859.
- ^ Voelkl, B. and Huber, L. (2007): Imitation as faithful copying of a novel technique in marmoset monkeys. 'PLoS one 2 (7),' e611. Full text
- ^ Heyes, C.M., Dawson, G.R. and Nokes, T. (1992). Imitation in rats: initial responding and transfer evidence. 'The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 45 B,' 229-240.
- ^ Heyes, C.M. and Dawson, G.R. (1990). A demonstration of observational learning in rats using a bidirectional control. 'The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 42 B,' 59-71.
- ^ Heyes, C.M., Ray, E.D., Mitchell, C.J. and Nokes, T. (2000). Stimulus Enhancement: Controls for Social Facilitation and Local Enhancement. 'Learning and Motivation, 31,' 83'98.
- ^ Custance, D., Whiten, A., and Fredman, T. (1999). Social learning of an artificial fruit task in capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella). "Journal of Comparative Psychology, 113," 13-23.
- ^ Bugnyar, T. and Huber, L. (1997). Push or pull: an experimental study on imitation in marmosets. 'Animal Behaviour, 1997,' 817-831.
- ^ Voelkl, B. and Huber, L. True imitation in marmosets. 'Animal Behaviour, 60,' 195-202.
- ^ Whiten, A., Custance, D.M., Gomez, J.C., Teixidor, P., and Bard, K.A. (1996). Imitative learning of artificial fruit processing in children (Homo sapiens) and chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). 'Journal of Comparative Psychology 110,' 3-14.
- ^ Stoinsky, T. S. Wrate, J. L. Ure, N. Whiten, A. (2001). Imitative Learning by Captive Western Lowland Gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) in a Simulated Food-Processing Task. 'Journal of Comparative Psychology, 115,' 272-281.
- ^ Whiten, A., Horner, V., Litchfield, C.A., and Marshall-Pescini, S. (2004). How do apes ape? 'Learning and Behavior 32,' 36-52.
- ^ Tennie, C, Call, J, Tomasello, M. (2006). Push or pull: emulation versus imitation in great apes and human children. Ethology, 112, 1159-1169. Full text
 Further reading
- Zentall, T.R. (2006). Imitation: Definitions, evidence, and mechanisms. Animal Cognition, 9, 335-353. Full text
This article is based on one or more articles in Wikipedia, with modifications and
additional content by SOURCES editors. This article is covered by a Creative Commons
Attribution-Sharealike 3.0 License (CC-BY-SA) and the GNU Free Documentation License
(GFDL). The remainder of the content of this website, except where otherwise indicated,
is copyright SOURCES and may not be reproduced without written permission.
(For information use the
SOURCES.COM is an online portal and directory for journalists, news media, researchers
and anyone seeking experts, spokespersons, and reliable information resources. Use
SOURCES.COM to find experts, media contacts, news releases, background information,
scientists, officials, speakers, newsmakers, spokespeople, talk show guests, story
ideas, research studies, databases, universities, associations and NGOs, businesses,
government spokespeople. Indexing and search applications by Ulli Diemer and Chris
For information about being included in SOURCES as a expert or
spokesperson see the FAQ or use
the online membership form.
Check here for
information about becoming an
For partnerships, content and applications, and domain name opportunities
Sources home page