Psychology Dictionary of Arguments

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Slater I 72/73
Imitation/Meltzoff: in his experiment, Meltzoff ruled out, that the experimenter himself imitated the behavior of the children (of 16-21 days old). Therefore, [in a second experiment] the children had a pacifier in their mouths while they watched the experimenter’s gestures (mouth opening (MO) and tongue protrusion (TP)). Thus the experimenter did not have the infant’s facial behavior as a cue of when to present the gesture. There were three times more mouth opening than tongue-protrusion responses after MO had been shown, and there were four times more tongue-protrusion than mouth opening responses after TP had been shown, and in both instances there were more of the appropriate responses than in baseline conditions where no gestures were shown.
I 74
Explanation/Meltzoff: >Proprioception/psychological theories: in order to imitate facial gestures the newborns had to relate what they saw to their unseen facial gestures. In later publications Meltzoff and Moore referred to this model as “active intermodal matching” or AIM.
The infant sees the adult gesture, which activates its own proprioceptive awareness of its own face (hence supramodal since it involves two sensory modalities, vision and proprioception). The infant then attempts an imitative gesture and proprioceptive information lets the infant know how successful its own gesture was (equivalence detector) and over time is able to produce a more accurate imitation.
Meltzoff and Moore provided the first clear evidence, (…) that very young infants are able to imitate facial gestures they see an adult modeling, despite not being able to see their own faces.
I 75
Slater: Meltzoff and Moore’s (1977)(1) article had a far reaching impact:
a) a reconceptualization of infant social and cognitive development, (>Imitation/Slater)
b) a new account of the origins of face perception, (>Perception/Meltzoff)
c) [the] beginning of a new account of the development and functions of imitation in infancy.
>Explanation/Meltzoff.
For newer explanations: >Mirror neurons/psychological theories.



1. Meltzoff, A.N. & Moore, M. K. (1977). Imitation of facial and manual gestures by human neonates. Science, 198, 75-78


Alan M. Slater, “Imitation in Infancy. Revisiting Meltzoff and Moore’s (1977) Study”, in: Alan M. Slater and Paul C. Quinn (eds.) 2012. Developmental Psychology. Revisiting the Classic Studies. London: Sage Publications


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution.
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Meltzoff, Andrew N.
Slater I
Alan M. Slater
Paul C. Quinn
Developmental Psychology. Revisiting the Classic Studies London 2012


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