Changes in imitative behavior during early infancy

Tiffany Field, Sheri Goldstein, Nitza Vega-Lahr, Kathleen Porter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Changes in imitative behavior and attentiveness were observed in 40 infants when they were 2 to 6 months of age. The facial expressions happy, sad, and surprised were modeled in a trials-to-criterion procedure, and the infants' looking time and mouth movements were recorded by an observer who was unaware of the face being modeled. In addition, the observer recorded her guess as to the expression being modeled by the corresponding expression on the infant's face and rated the infant's expressivity. The results suggested that looking time, correspondence between the mouth expression of the infant and the mouth expression modeled, accuracy of the observer's guess, and expressivity ratings decreased from 2 to 3 and 4 to 6 months. Although matching of mouth movements with the modeled mouth movements and accuracy of guesses were greater than chance over the 2 to 6 month-period, the decreases in these measures suggest that imitative behavior declined across early infancy. The decrease in looking time suggests that imitative behavior and attentiveness may be related and highlights the limitation of this paradigm for assessing the development of imitation during early infancy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)415-421
Number of pages7
JournalInfant Behavior and Development
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1986


  • imitation behavior
  • imitation facial expressions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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