Publications

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  • Hilbrink, E., Sakkalou, E., Ellis-Davies, K., Fowler, N., & Gattis, M. (2013). Selective and faithful imitation at 12 and 15 months. Developmental Science., 16(6), 828-840. doi:10.1111/desc.12070.

    Abstract

    Research on imitation in infancy has primarily focused on what and when infants imitate. More recently, however, the question why infants imitate has received renewed attention, partly motivated by the finding that infants sometimes selectively imitate the actions of others and sometimes faithfully imitate, or overimitate, the actions of others. The present study evaluates the hypothesis that this varying imitative behavior is related to infants' social traits. To do so, we assessed faithful and selective imitation longitudinally at 12 and 15 months, and extraversion at 15 months. At both ages, selective imitation was dependent on the causal structure of the act. From 12 to 15 months, selective imitation decreased while faithful imitation increased. Furthermore, infants high in extraversion were more faithful imitators than infants low in extraversion. These results demonstrate that the onset of faithful imitation is earlier than previously thought, but later than the onset of selective imitation. The observed relation between extraversion and faithful imitation supports the hypothesis that faithful imitation is driven by the social motivations of the infant. We call this relation the King Louie Effect: like the orangutan King Louie in The Jungle Book, infants imitate faithfully due to a growing interest in the interpersonal nature of interactions.
  • Sakkalou, E., Ellis-Davies, K., Fowler, N., Hilbrink, E., & Gattis, M. (2013). Infants show stability of goal-directed imitation. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 114, 1-9. doi:10.1016/j.jecp.2012.09.005.

    Abstract

    Previous studies have reported that infants selectively reproduce observed actions and have argued that this selectivity reflects understanding of intentions and goals, or goal-directed imitation. We reasoned that if selective imitation of goal-directed actions reflects understanding of intentions, infants should demonstrate stability across perceptually and causally dissimilar imitation tasks. To this end, we employed a longitudinal within-participants design to compare the performance of 37 infants on two imitation tasks, with one administered at 13 months and one administered at 14 months. Infants who selectively imitated goal-directed actions in an object-cued task at 13 months also selectively imitated goal-directed actions in a vocal-cued task at 14 months. We conclude that goal-directed imitation reflects a general ability to interpret behavior in terms of mental states.
  • Scott, K., Sakkalou, E., Ellis-Davies, K., Hilbrink, E., Hahn, U., & Gattis, M. (2013). Infant contributions to joint attention predict vocabulary development. In M. Knauff, M. Pauen, I. Sebanz, & I. Wachsmuth (Eds.), Proceedings of the 35th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 3384-3389). Austin,TX: Cognitive Science Society. Retrieved from http://mindmodeling.org/cogsci2013/papers/0602/index.html.

    Abstract

    Joint attention has long been accepted as constituting a privileged circumstance in which word learning prospers. Consequently research has investigated the role that maternal responsiveness to infant attention plays in predicting language outcomes. However there has been a recent expansion in research implicating similar predictive effects from individual differences in infant behaviours. Emerging from the foundations of such work comes an interesting question: do the relative contributions of the mother and infant to joint attention episodes impact upon language learning? In an attempt to address this, two joint attention behaviours were assessed as predictors of vocabulary attainment (as measured by OCDI Production Scores). These predictors were: mothers encouraging attention to an object given their infant was already attending to an object (maternal follow-in); and infants looking to an object given their mothers encouragement of attention to an object (infant follow-in). In a sample of 14-month old children (N=36) we compared the predictive power of these maternal and infant follow-in variables on concurrent and later language performance. Results using Growth Curve Analysis provided evidence that while both maternal follow-in and infant follow-in variables contributed to production scores, infant follow-in was a stronger predictor. Consequently it does appear to matter whose final contribution establishes joint attention episodes. Infants who more often follow-in into their mothers’ encouragement of attention have larger, and faster growing vocabularies between 14 and 18-months of age.

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