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Deferred imitation: Individual differences in early memory performance
Linköping University, Department of Behavioural Sciences and Learning, Psychology. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences. (Utvecklingspsykologi och IHV)ORCID iD: 0000-0001-5025-9975
2012 (English)Conference paper, Presentation (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Infant memory researchers agree that deferred imitation is a robust, easily administered and reliable nonverbal method of capturing rudimentary declarative memory function prior to the onset of productive language. As of today there are two different ways of studying deferred imitation: An observation-only design in which no practice is allowed before a memory delay is imposed, and an elicited imitation procedure in which the child is allowed to spontaneously explore the objects before modeling in order to create a baseline.

Although results from studies using these two methods are largely overlapping, crucial differences have also been noted. The elicited imitation procedure allows for both practice and verbal cues, which can affect the observed retention time. As a consequence, a stronger memory trace might be formed when the child can encode through several modalities: vision, auditory and motor. Thus we cannot ignore the distinction between these two methods when evaluating reported findings.

Individual differences in behavioral memory performance have been reported by studies using both methods. As an example, a predictive correlation from deferred imitation at 9 months to gestural communication at 14 months has been reported. In addition, deferred imitation has also been found to predict cognition at 4 years of age. In order to achieve a better understanding of the individual differences reported in the literature researchers have become motivated to use different brain measures, foremost EEG (event-related-potentials). Findings from studies using the elicited imitation procedure report that electrophysiological indices of recognition correlate with memory observed behaviorally. In comparison, a recent study from our lab found that learning processes captured by an associative learning ERP-paradigm predicted the memory score for 14-month-old children. Change scores based on Nc, a middle latency component associated with attentional processes, predicted deferred imitation performance. Thus, better memory performance judged behaviorally was highly correlated with electrophysiological indices of successful learning of new associations.  The study used the observation-only design and is, to our knowledge, one of the first to directly compare how well children learn in two different but related situations, deferred imitation and in an ERP-design. The results suggest that associative learning is linked to memory performance observed in the deferred imitation procedure. This raises questions regarding our view on early memory development since deferred imitation is viewed as an early explicit memory. A speculative thought is that explicit and implicit systems are less separated early in development than later on. This will be further discussed in the presentation as will the pros and cons of the two methods currently used by deferred imitation researchers

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Keyword [en]
Imitation, memory, infancy, individual differences
National Category
Psychology (excluding Applied Psychology)
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-80679OAI: diva2:547792
XVIII Biennial International Conference on Infant Studies, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 7-9, 2012
FAS, Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research, 2008-0875; 2006-1040Swedish Research Council, 2008-2454
Available from: 2012-08-28 Created: 2012-08-28 Last updated: 2013-09-12

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Heimann, Mikael
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PsychologyFaculty of Arts and Sciences
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