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Two experiments investigate the scope of imitation by testing whether 36-month-olds can learn to produce a categorization strategy through observation. After witnessing an adult sort a set of objects by a visible property (their color, Experiment 1) or a non-visible property (the particular sounds produced when the objects were shaken, Experiment 2), children showed significantly more sorting by those dimensions relative to children in control groups, including a control in which children saw the sorted endstate but not the intentional sorting demonstration. The results show that 36-month-olds can do more than imitate the literal behaviors they see; they also abstract and imitate rules that they see another person use.


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Williamson, R. A., Jaswal, V. K., & Meltzoff, A. N. (2010). Learning the rules: Observation and imitation of a sorting strategy by 36-month-old children. Developmental Psychology, 46(1), 57-65. doi:10.1037/a0017473

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