How Imitation Begets Imitation and Toddlers' Generation of Games
24-month-old toddlers were observed interacting with a programmed adult partner to assess how being imitated leads to imitative acts by toddlers and the generation of social games. For 8 toddlers, the partner imitated the toddler's actions on objects; for 8 others, she performed a different, parallel action on the same play material. The former reaction approximates conditions after repeated imitation of one another emerges in peer interaction around 24 months of age-the latter, conditions of the immediately prior developmental period. When imitated, toddlers were more likely to (a) continue to act on the object, (b) repeat their same action on that object given that they continued, (c) generate games, especially imitation games, and (d) look at the partner's face. These social influence processes are thought to operate in naturally occurring peer interactions and to contribute to the new forms of behavioral organization seen around 24 months of age. The study illustrates a dynamic systems approach to behavioral organization and development.
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