OUTLINE FOR A FUNCTIONAL-ANALYSIS OF IMITATION IN ANIMALS

ML HOWARD, Mickey Keenan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

The term `'imitation'' is generally used by ethologists to cover interactions between conspecifics in which an unusual or novel behavioral repertoire exhibited by an animal is emitted by an observing conspecific. The major explanatory classes created to explain,this phenomenon will be briefly outlined in the current review. In particular, attention shall be drawn to the debate surrounding the existence of `'true imitation' in animals, which is generally regarded as the ability to imitate response topography in a `'reflective'' and `'goal orientated'' manner. This paper proposes that current procedural difficulties found in the field are a product of a number of implicit theoretical assumptions and trends in methodological design. In particular, the importance of discriminating between functional and topographical aspects of behavior is highlighted. Finally, the employment of a behavior synthesis methodology to facilitate the demonstration of true imitation in animals is presented as a feasible alternative to current approaches in this field.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)185-204
JournalThe Psychological Record
Volume43
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1993

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