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Title: Imitation : a paradigm for studying children's understanding of intentional actions
Author: Huang, Chi-Tai
ISNI:       0000 0001 3583 2550
Awarding Body: University of London
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2001
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In a series of four studies, A. N. Meltzoff's (1995) Failed-Attempt paradigm for exploring the role of children's understanding of intention in imitation of acts on objects was replicated and novel manipulations to the paradigm were systematically assessed. In Experiments 1 and 2, the design explored the extent to which Meltzoff's Failed-Attempt format may cue children to produce the intended subsequent but unfulfilled target acts as a result of emulation learning or observing the contiguity of the target-relevant object parts. Results showed that either exposure to the initial and end state of the object set (Experiment 1) or exposure to the initial state and contiguity of the target-relevant object parts (Experiment 2) elicited a similar number of target acts as exposure to the failed-attempt model. These findings contrast to Meltzoff's conclusion that 18-month-olds could re-enact the intended subsequent acts by observing the failed attempts. Experiments 3 and 4 dealt with an issue raised in Experiments 1 and 2: did 17- and 19-month-old children selectively imitate the observed acts when they resulted in the observed outcomes of certain kinds? Results showed that there was evidence of imitation in both 31- and 41-month-olds' reproduction of the observed control acts. In addition, the 41-month-olds were capable of imitatively copying the demonstrated failed attempts whilst they were similar to 19- and 31-month-olds in the tendency to produce the target acts. In Experiment 4, the procedure for demonstrating failed attempts was further modified by vocally marking the demonstration as intentionally or accidentally failed. Neither of 17- and 39-month-old children showed differential ways of responding according to the vocal cues. They responded to the vocally marked failed attempts in the same way as they did when no vocal marker was given. Overall, the findings present a challenge to Meltzoff's analysis of the connection between infant imitation and understanding of intention. Methodologically, Meltzoff's format of modelling an adult's failed attempts involves contradictory information about the adult's underlying intentional stance and the outcomes already afforded by the objects. As a consequence, 39- and 41-month-old children may interpret the observed outcomes of the demonstrated failed attempts as intended. Although there is evidence that 17- and 19-month-old children imitated the demonstrated acts after observing the full- demonstration model, it is not clear that ascription of intention to the model must play an essential role in their imitative performance of acts on objects.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Meltzoff's failed attempt paradigm