Chapter 6: The 1st 2 yrs: Cognitive Development
Web Article: Deferred Imitation
Infants first generalize across contexts and cues at 3 months of age in operant tasks but not until 12 months of age in imitation tasks. Three experiments using an imitation task examined whether infants younger than 12 months of age might generalize imitation if conditions were more like those in operant studies. Infants sat on a distinctive mat in a room in their home (the context) while adult modeled actions on a hand puppet (the cue). When they were tested 24 h later, 6-month-olds generalized imitation when either the mat or the room (but not both) differed, whereas 9-month-olds generalized when both the mat and the room differed. In addition, 9-month-olds who imitated immediately also generalized to a novel test cue, whereas 6-month-olds did not. These results parallel results from operant studies and reveal that the similarity between the conditions of encoding ...view middle of the document...
The present study examined both deferred, spontaneous imitation and immediate, elicited imitation on a set of carefully matched tasks in 36 young children with autism: 16 with early onset autism, 20 with regressive autism and two contrast groups, younger typically developing children (n = 20) and age matched children with significant developmental delays (n = 21). Analyses of co-variance controlling for differences in verbal mental age revealed significant main effects for task, but no main effect of group and no interaction of task by group. Deferred imitation scores were lower than immediate imitation scores for all groups. Imitation performance was related to overall intellectual functioning for all groups, and there were moderate and significant relations between imitation in the immediate elicited condition and in the spontaneous deferred condition for all groups. Finally, there were no differences between onset subgroups in imitation scores, suggesting that the two share a similar phenotype involving both types of imitation.
Piaget used deferred imitation as an indication of recall abilities in his 16-month-old daughter.Â Other researchers have used the same measure to test recall abilities in younger infants. Objections to the use of this measure are based on: 1) sensorimotor processes may underlie observational learning and 2) repetition priming experiments with amnesic adults suggest that the presence of the object may prime the action performed on it.Â In both cases, the validity of the measure is questioned. However, research using deferred imitation with amnesic adults (adults who have no ability to recall past events; McDonough et al., in press) show that they cannot recall action sequences after a 24 hour delay.Â Along with other considerations, it seems reasonable to conclude that deferred imitation is a valid measure of recall.Â More recent research by Bauer & Mandler (1992) showed that 11-month-olds represent the order in which causal events and familiar events occur and they can reproduce such for immediate imitation. The goal of the present experiments is to see if infants can recall the temporal organization of novel events with causal (enabling) or arbitrary orders after 20 second, 24 hour and 3 month delays.