Encyclopedia of the Sciences of Learning

2012 Edition
| Editors: Norbert M. Seel

Imitation: Definitions, Evidence, and Mechanisms

  • Thomas R. Zentall
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-1428-6_596



Imitation involves the copying of an otherwise improbable response demonstrated by another individual that cannot be attributed to (a) contagion (e.g., flocking, mobbing, yawning, laughing), (b) social facilitation (the mere presence of another), (c) local or stimulus enhancement (attention drawn to a place or object by the sight of a conspecific at that place or interacting with that object), or (d) emulation, learned affordances, or object movement reenactment (learning how the environment works).

Theoretical Background

Social learning, the ability of animals to learn from observing the behavior of others, would appear to have adaptive value because it reduces the likelihood of experiencing the negative consequences of trial and error learning. There are various kinds of social learning, the most theoretically interesting of which is imitation – and especially a form of imitation in which the imitated response by...

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of KentuckyLexingtonUSA