Encyclopedia of the Sciences of Learning

2012 Edition
| Editors: Norbert M. Seel

Imitative Learning in Humans and Animals

  • Harriet Over
  • Malinda Carpenter
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-1428-6_270



Imitative learning occurs when an individual acquires a novel action as a result of watching another individual produce it. It can be distinguished from other, lower-level social learning mechanisms such as local enhancement, stimulus enhancement, and contagion (see  Imitation: Definition, Evidence, and Mechanisms). Most critically within this context, it can also be distinguished from emulation in which an individual learns about the affordances and/or causal properties of the objects involved in a demonstration rather than the particular actions used by the model. In stark contrast to emulation, the term “over-imitation” is sometimes used to refer to action copying that is so faithful that it includes the casually irrelevant and unnecessary actions of a model (technically, however, this term is better reserved for cases in which a learner copies a model’s unnecessary actions even when they...

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Developmental and Comparative PsychologyMax Planck Institute for Evolutionary AnthropologyLeipzigGermany