The functions of imitative behaviour in humans

Harry Farmer, Anna Ciaunica, Antonia C. Hamilton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (SciVal)


This article focuses on the question of the function of imitation and whether current accounts of imitative function are consistent with our knowledge about imitation's origins. We first review theories of imitative origin concluding that empirical evidence suggests that imitation arises from domain-general learning mechanisms. Next, we lay out a selective account of function that allows normative functions to be ascribed to learned behaviours. We then describe and review four accounts of the function of imitation before evaluating the relationship between the claim that imitation arises out of domain-general learning mechanisms and theories of the function of imitation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)378-396
Number of pages19
JournalMind and Language
Issue number4
Early online date22 May 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2018


  • function
  • imitation
  • mimicry
  • simulation
  • social cognition
  • social learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Philosophy
  • Linguistics and Language


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