Peek-a-boo! Why babies like it when you imitate them.
Chris Manktelow discusses that babies have been found to know when someone is imitating them
6-month year-old babies know when you imitate them and think that you are more friendly, according to a new study by psychologists at Lund University in Sweden. Babies smile and look at people for longer when people copy them. They also enjoy playing copying games when they know someone else is imitating them.
“Babies smile and look at people for longer when people copy them”
In the study, psychologists visited six-month year-old babies in their own homes. To find out if babies recognise imitation, they played four different games. In the first game the researcher mirrored the baby’s behaviour exactly. In the second game, they did the opposite of what the babies did. In the third game, the researcher copied the movements the baby made with their body but did not copy the baby’s facial expression. Then in the final game, the researcher responded to the baby with a completely different action.
The results suggest that babies recognise when someone is imitating them. When researchers mirrored them exactly, the babies smiled and looked at them for longer. The researchers also found out that babies play games to see if people will copy them back. For example, if a baby hit a table with their hand, the researcher would copy them. Then the baby would hit the table several more times, to see if the researcher would respond.
“When researchers mirrored them exactly, the babies… looked at them for longer”
We don’t know exactly how imitation helps babies learn or when babies begin to recognise imitation. The study only included 16 babies, which means that the results need to be repeated elsewhere to check that they are accurate. However, by finding out that babies can recognise imitation, we are beginning to learn why babies think that a game of peek-a-boo is so much fun!