Publication 5545

Anisfeld M. (2005) No compelling evidence to dispute Piaget’s timetable of the development of representational imitation in infancy. In: Hurley S. & Chater N. (eds.) Perspectives on imitation: From neuroscience to social science. MIT Press, Cambridge MA: 107–131.
Excerpt: Recent experimental work on imitation in infancy has challenged Piaget’s theory and timetable. Two aspects of Piaget’s work have been criticized: his contention that imitation of invisible gestures (i.e., gestures the imitator cannot see when he or she performs them) could not occur until the third quarter of the first year, and his contention that deferred imitation of novel sequences of actions could not occur until the beginning of the second year. The critics have marshalled empirical research that they interpret as showing invisible imitation in the neonatal period and deferred imitation at 6–9 months. This chapter argues that in both areas the empirical criticism of Piaget is not well founded. It removes a source of support for theories that attribute mental representation to young infants. In turn, it provides support for Piagetian theories that see mental representation as evolving gradually in the course of the first year. The chapter starts with a brief summary of Piaget’s theory to provide a context for his work on imitation. This summary is followed by an examination of the work on invisible imitation and deferred imitation.
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