Contextualizing children’s imitation : an examination of children’s flexible use of imitation in distinct cultural and child-rearing contexts
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Despite experimental and ethnographic evidence of imitation in the context of skill-based or instrumental learning there has not yet been a systematic cross-cultural account of imitative behavior in the context of learning cultural conventions. Moreover, very little is known about how children’s social interaction with their caregivers scaffolds the development of imitation. New research suggests that the causal opacity associated with conventions results in high fidelity imitation due to children’s interpretation of a behavior as a conventional act (based on social conventions) rather than an instrumental act. This dissertation examines children’s flexible imitation based on their interpretation of the purpose of a behavior in two different cultural settings – the U.S. and Vanuatu, a Melanesian island nation and in natural child-rearing settings. This research addresses a significant gap in the current literature, as much of the work on the development of imitation has been conducted in Western, single-child settings.