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date: 16 April 2021

Abstract and Keywords

What is cognitive imitation and what does it tell us about the development and evolution of imitation and cultural learning? Here, evidence is reviewed demonstrating dissociations between different forms of social learning; Specifically, dissociations between the copying of end-results (i.e., emulation) and the copying of actions (i.e., imitation), as well as between the imitation of ordinal rules (cognitive imitation) and the copying of motor-spatial rules (motor imitation), in human and non-human populations that typically fail to learn in motor imitation paradigms. Together, this body of research suggests that imitation is a multifaceted faculty with numerous domain-specific copying mechanisms. These mechanisms are predicted to be both developmentally and phylogenetically discontinuous; a result of unique selection pressures favoring certain copying mechanisms over others.

Keywords: Imitation, cognitive imitation, social learning, primates, children, autism, cognitive evolution

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