Newborn imitation and cognitive
development: Charting the
prevalence, time course and social-cognitive correlates of neonatal
Imitation is something that we all do naturally and
often. It is
thought that infants imitate from birth, but that idea is controversial
because the crucial studies have not been done. Our ongoing study aims
to settle this issue by testing more thoroughly than ever before, how
reliably human infants imitate other people in the first several months
of life. We are also investigating the extent to which imitation
exhibited by newborns is related to later-developing social skills like
smiling, gesturing and using language.
Thinking about the future:
The nature and development of mental time travel
Time travel may never be physically
possible. We do however regularly
travel in time in our minds. While psychologists have long studied
memory, little is known about our ability to consider the future. We
are systematically investigating how children acquire the capacity to
imagine and plan for the future.
In this series of studies, we are evaluating what
features of the
body are relevant to young infants. Do infants notice when bodies are
scrambled or presented upside down? Do they prefer male or female body
shapes? Do they prefer bodies with infant proportions, or adult bodies?
We know that from birth, infants are attracted to faces; are they also
attracted to other important body parts like hands?
about counting in infancy
The vast majority of human cultures possess a
routine for counting
things. Although counting generally is not mastered until children are
around 4 years old, our experiments indicate that the principles of
counting are first learned in infancy. So far, we have found that
18-month-olds prefer to watch videos that depict correct counting,
compared to videos depicting incorrect counting. Our ongoing studies
are investigating what types of counting errors infants are sensitive
to, and whether infants’ early preferences for correct counting are
linked to counting skill and other mathematical abilities in the
preschool period and beyond.
Learning from others via
When doing what others do, children learn about how the
world works. At
the same time, copying someone else brings children's experiences in
line with others and provides them with a way of getting information
about what others feel, and why others do what they do. Imitation is
thus seen to be a critical mechanism of learning and a central element
of children's cognitive and social development. Two studies are
currently being run that investigate this ability in 4 year olds, one
is designed to help us better understand how children learn directly
while the other is designed to assess how children learn in third party
situations where they see one person show something to another.
Development Centre. School of Psychology. The University of Queensland.
Website design by Katie McFadden.