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An introduction to the imitative mind and brain

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 September 2009

Andrew N. Meltzoff
Affiliation:
University of Washington
Wolfgang Prinz
Affiliation:
Max-Planck-Institut für psychologische Forschung, Germany
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Summary

Introduction

Imitation guides the behavior of a range of species. Advances in the study of imitation, from brain to behavior, have profound implications for a variety of topics including consciousness, the neural underpinnings of perception-action coding, and the origins of theory of mind. Human beings are the most imitative creatures on the planet. We create but we also imitate, and this combination provides us with a special (though perhaps not unique) cognitive-social profile. This book provides insights into the imitative mind and brain, its evolution, development, and place in adult psychology. In so doing, it addresses a longstanding puzzle about how “self” and “other” are coded within our brains.

Scope

Imitation has a long and rich history. From a historical perspective, the interest in imitation is much broader than the more focused treatment we give it in the present book. For example, in the past, the term imitation has been used in a number of different ways in domains as diverse as theory of art, theology, ethology, cultural anthropology, and psychology. Platonic and Aristotelian theories, drama, the visual arts, and music were conceived as using the imitation of nature (imitatio naturae) as a principle of aesthetic performance. In medieval theology, the notion of imitatio christi stood for the way man could regain resemblance with God (lost through the Fall of Man), by leading a life in humility, hardship, and poverty.

Type
Chapter
Information
The Imitative Mind
Development, Evolution and Brain Bases
, pp. 1 - 16
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2002

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