Cognitive imitation in 2-year-old children (Homo sapiens): a comparison with rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta)
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- Subiaul, F., Romansky, K., Cantlon, J. . et al. Anim Cogn (2007) 10: 369. doi:10.1007/s10071-006-0070-3
Here we compare the performance of 2-year-old human children with that of adult rhesus macaques on a cognitive imitation task. The task was to respond, in a particular order, to arbitrary sets of photographs that were presented simultaneously on a touch sensitive video monitor. Because the spatial position of list items was varied from trial to trial, subjects could not learn this task as a series of specific motor responses. On some lists, subjects with no knowledge of the ordinal position of the items were given the opportunity to learn the order of those items by observing an expert model. Children, like monkeys, learned new lists more rapidly in a social condition where they had the opportunity to observe an experienced model perform the list in question, than under a baseline condition in which they had to learn new lists entirely by trial and error. No differences were observed between the accuracy of each species’ responses to individual items or in the frequencies with which they made different types of errors. These results provide clear evidence that monkeys and humans share the ability to imitate novel cognitive rules (cognitive imitation).