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Imitation is of psychological interest in part because it has cognitive implications for how organisms view the behavior of others, relative to their own behavior. It implies the ability to take the perspective of another. For this reason, researchers have tried to distinguish imitation from other kinds of social learning and influence. In the two-action procedure, one of two response topographies is demonstrated, and the correlation between the topography demonstrated and the topography later used by the observer is a measure of imitation. Both pigeons and Japanese quail show response matching, despite the fact that from their perspective, their own behavior appears quite different from that demonstrated. Although imitation has been demonstrated in birds and several species of primates, researchers are still not certain what mechanisms underlie this ability.
Current Directions in Psychological Science © 2003 Association for Psychological Science