Written by Susan S. JONES on . Posted in Special issue: Empathy Development, Guest Editor: Elena GEANGU, Volume XIII, Nr. 4


Numerous writers have described how imitation may lead to empathy: when an imitator performs the same behavior as another, she may experience, directly or through associated memories, the same cognitions and emotions as the person being imitated. Meltzoff’s recent description of newborn infants’ ability to recognize self-other equivalences in action – the ‘Like me’ framework – links imitation and empathy in this way. The theory builds on reports that infants can imitate from birth. However, evidence for newborn imitation is open to alternative interpretation. Other findings indicate that infants’ voluntary reproduction of actions of others requires substantial learning and emerges in the second year. Evidence of such learning is presented here, and implications for studying the origins of imitation and empathy are discussed.

KEYWORDS: infancy, imitation, empathy, newborn.

PAGES: 391-413