IMITATION AND EMPATHY IN INFANCY
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. Meltzoffâs recent description of newborn infantsâ ability to recognize self-other equivalences in action â the âLike meâ framework â 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 infantsâ 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.