Brief Familiarization Primes Covert Imitation in 9-month-old Infants

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date


Publication Title

Proceedings of the 33rd Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society




Previous research reveals that 9-month-old infants who passively observe an experimenter search repeatedly for a toy in the Piagetian A-not-B error task covertly imitate these actions and manually search incorrectly when the toy is hidden in the B-location. Two experiments tested whether infants would also search incorrectly if the experimenter was replaced by a pair of mechanical claws or if the experimenter performed less familiar actions. Although infants did not commit the search error when tested directly without any familiarization to the novel actions, a significant majority of infants committed the search error following two minutes of familiarization with the actions performed on the A trials. These results converge to suggest that infants’ brief experiences with observing actions will facilitate the activation of a corresponding motor representation. Furthermore, the specific process by which this facilitation occurs varies with the similarity between the observed action and its motor representation.