The mechanisms of imitation

Kevin Neville Laland, P P G Bateson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Imitation is a process by which individuals learn to perform a behavior pattern as a result of observing another animal performing a similar action. Despite a century of research and a great deal of interest, the processes underlying imitation remain unknown. On the basis of neural network simulations, we put forward a hypothesis for the computational processes that underlie imitation. This analysis suggests that imitation may occur because the observational experience (which includes both the demonstrator's performance of the target behavior and contextual cues) is composed of stimuli that have features in common with cues associated with an individual's past experience. This leads us to propose a stimulus generalization hypothesis for the mechanism underlying imitation. We suggest that a stimulus generalization explanation for imitation has been prematurely rejected, because the complexity and significance of this prior experience have not been fully appreciated. The hypothesis may be able to account for many reported cases of imitation in animals and humans. This analysis allows us to make a number of predictions which are accessible to empirical test.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)195-224
Number of pages30
JournalCybernetics and Systems Journal
Volume32
Issue number1-2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2001

Keywords

  • BIDIRECTIONAL CONTROL
  • NEONATAL IMITATION
  • MODEL
  • RATS
  • DISCRIMINATION
  • GESTURES
  • ANIMALS
  • MEMORY

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'The mechanisms of imitation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this