van Schaik, J.E., van Baaren, R., Bekkering, H., & Hunnius, S. (2013). Evidence for nonconscious behavior-copying in young children. In M. Knauff, M. Pauen, N. Sebanz, & I. Wachsmuth (Eds), Proceedings of the 35th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 1516-1521). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.
Abstract. Behavioral mimicry is the nonconscious copying of an interaction partner’s behavior and is affected by social dynamics. Whereas it has been studied extensively in adults, little is known about the development of mimicry. The aims of this study were twofold, first to identify whether young children demonstrate mimicry and, second, to investigate whether young children’s mimicry displays sensitivity to social dynamics. Using a video-based paradigm, 40-month-old children observed six types of actions (i.e. yawning, laughing, frowning, cheek-scratching, mouth-rubbing and head-wiggling) performed by a model which they had previously seen either helping or hindering another model. Results indicate that children carried out five of the six actions more often while watching the action clips than during baseline. However, no differences were found between the two social manipulations. We conclude that young children demonstrate mimicry like that reported in adults and discuss the possible causes of the absence of a social effect.