Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science

Living Edition
| Editors: Todd K. Shackelford, Viviana A. Weekes-Shackelford

Neonatal Imitation

  • Siobhan Kennedy-CostantiniEmail author
  • Virginia Slaughter
  • Mark Nielsen
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-16999-6_2382-1



The tendency for newborn infants to reproduce, imitate, or copy behaviors as they are modeled to them by an adult.


Whether or not newborns have an ability to imitate has been the focus of considerable research effort over the past four decades. It has been considered a unique feature of the human mind and proposed to be the basis of later social-cognitive abilities (Lepage and Théoret 2007; Meltzoff and Williamson 2010; Trevarthen and Aitken 2001). There has, however, been mixed empirical evidence for its existence, placing neonatal imitation at the center of great debate with varied mechanisms and functions being proposed in an effort to explain the inconsistent findings. The most recent and comprehensive research on the topic suggests that there is no longer compelling evidence for neonatal imitation (Oostenbroek et al. 2016).

History of Neonatal Imitation Research

For the...


Newborn Infant Mirror Neuron Mirror Neuron System Tongue Protrusion Matching Behavior 
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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Siobhan Kennedy-Costantini
    • 1
    Email author
  • Virginia Slaughter
    • 1
  • Mark Nielsen
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.School of PsychologyThe University of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia
  2. 2.University of JohannesburgJohannesburgSouth Africa

Section editors and affiliations

  • Carey Fitzgerald
    • 1
  1. 1.University of South Carolina - BeaufortBlufftonUSA