Imitation is a phenomenon that seems to have engaged developmental psychologists throughout their century-long history. In 1906, Baldwin argued, in his seminal text, that the development of self and other was so interconnected that humans are essentially ‘imitative creations’ (Baldwin, 1906). By the 1960s, Piaget’s theory about the development of memory and representation, and imitation’s role within that, had begun to fundamentally re-shape the field’s conception of infant development (e.g. Piaget, 1962). In the 1970s, the discovery that neonates could imitate adults’ facial expressions when only minutes old sparked heated debate about humans’ innate social endowment (e.g. Maratos, 1973; Meltzoff & Moore, 1977). The beginning of the 21st century finds the field turning to questions about robotic and computer-generated imitation (e.g. Bailenson & Yee, 2005; Nadel, Revel, Andry, & Gaussier, 2004). What can a special issue on imitation add to this extensive history?
The aim of this volume is to extend current conceptions of imitation by bringing together two domains that are generally confined to separate literatures: those relating to infancy and to communicative interventions. All the contributors are interested in the role that imitation plays in socio-emotional processes, and they seek to better understand how knowledge about infants and interventions can be mutually informative. Such connections are expected to yield insights that will be helpful to the field at both theoretical and applied levels.
The origins of this special issue lie in a series of three specialist seminars, held during 2003 (Dundee, Scotland) and 2004 (Bergen, Norway and Leeds, England), which brought together researchers and practitioners whose work focuses on socio-emotional aspects of imitation. Participants were 13 in number, drawn from the UK, Norway, and Sweden, all of whom feature as authors in this issue (Astell, Braarud, Caldwell, Ellis, Hart, Heimann, Laberg, Nagy, Nord en, O’Neill, Stormark, Strid, Zeedyk). We hoped that this group would be able to find common ground, even within the diversity in their approaches (experimental designs, naturalistic observations, case studies, practice) and their domains of expertise (infancy, autism, global delay, deafblindness, dementia). We were more than successful, for we found that the outcomes of our discussions were compelling enough to cause us to reflect anew on the very bases of human intersubjectivity.
Bognor Regis, UK: Wiley , 2006. , 222 p.