Babies Love When You Imitate Them, According to Science
While it might be annoying when your five-year-old copies everything you do, it turns out that babies love it. A new study from researchers at Lund University in Sweden found that babies perceived adults who mimic them as more friendly than those who don't.
The researchers met with a group of six-month-old babies in their own homes and engaged in four different types of play: direct imitation, reverse imitation, body part imitation with no facial changes, and responding with a motion that differed from the motion of the baby. The majority of babies watched, smiled at, and attempted to approach the researchers who were engaging in direct imitation.
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"Imitating young infants seems to be an effective way to catch their interest and bond with them. The mothers were quite surprised to see their infants joyfully engaging in imitation games with a stranger, but also impressed by the infants' behaviors," says Gabriela-Alina Sauciuc, a researcher at Lund University and the main author of the study, in a statement.
Babies who participated with researchers in imitation play were also found to engage in testing behavior–such as hitting a table to see if the researcher would also hit the table. "This was quite interesting. When someone actively tests the person who is imitating them, it is usually seen as an indication that the imitated individual is aware that there is a correspondence between their own behavior and the behavior of the other," explained Sauciuc.
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Scientists have speculated that imitation plays an important role in the development of back-and-forth interactions and "shared feelings and intentions" and this research seems to back that up.
So go ahead and take a break from peek-a-boo and get in some good, old-fashioned copycat time with your little one.