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Imitation in Young Children: When Who Gets Copied Is More Important Than What Gets Copied

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Imitation in Young Children:

When Who Gets Copied Is More Important Than What Gets Copied

Carla Gregory-Patterson

Midlands Technical College

Psychology 203-I01

Ms. Price

Problem:

Children imitating an adult's actions can seem to be a maladaptive behavior until it is looked at closer. Children imitating adults is a way for the child to learn how to do things, from the smallest thing, like opening a door, to the harder things, like preparing food. According to Nielsen and Blank, "By absorbing and repeating the behavior of adults, children are able to rapidly acquire the skills needed to use the object and tools that saturate their environment" (Nielson and Blank, 2011). Imitation is a normal part of human development that emerges early in childhood and continues into adulthood. The problem comes in when a child imitates actions that are not appropriate for adults or children or when the actions are not necessary to reach the goal of the task. The goal of the research is to find out if there is a correlation between children imitating all actions of the adult subject makes in the presence of such said subject, or if the children will use the imitation of the adult with the fewer unnecessary steps. The research seeks to show that children copy the motions of adults "because they attribute greater knowledge and expertise to adults," or the contrary view "that over imitation emerges from a need for social affiliation that is expressed by doing just as others do" (Nielson and Blank, 2011).

Research Method:

Structured observation is the research method used in this project. The researchers set up a controlled environment so that each child involved had an equal opportunity to display his/her response. There were thirty-six children, 19 boys and 17 girl, 4-5 years of age; all white and all lived in the metropolitan suburbs surrounding a large university. There were two locked boxes with a toy inside used in all the situations. Two adults were the controls, and they were responsible for showing the children how to open the boxes, both using different methods to do so. Each child sat across from the demonstrator with a parent next to them. Each child saw at least one demonstration of how to open the box without the unnecessary movements. Once the child saw two demonstrations, one of the demonstrators would leave the room and the child was told to open the box. The research shows that it the demonstrator that used the unnecessary movements (irrelevant adult) before opening the box stayed, the child would use all of the extra motions to open the box. When the demonstrator that used only the necessary

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