Imitation is not the low-level, cognitively undemanding behavior it is often assumed to be, but rather—along with language and the ability to understand other minds—one of a trio of related capacities that are fundamental to human mentality. In these landmark volumes, leading researchers across a range of disciplines provide a state-of-the-art view of imitation, integrating the latest findings and theories with reviews of seminal work, and revealing why imitation is a topic of such intense current scientific interest. Perspectives are drawn from neuroscience and brain imaging, animal and developmental psychology, primatology, ethology, philosophy, anthropology, media studies, economics, sociology, education, and law. These volumes provide a resource that makes this research accessible across disciplines and clarifies its importance for the social sciences and philosophy as well as for the cognitive sciences. As a further aid to cross-fertilization, each volume includes extensive interdisciplinary commentary and discussion.
The first volume considers possible mechanisms of imitation, including discussion of mirror systems, ideomotor and common coding theories, and the possibility of "shared circuits" for control, imitation, and simulation, and then takes up imitation in animals, with illuminating comparisons to human imitation. The second volume focuses first on the roles of imitation in human development and in learning to understand the minds of others, and then on the broader social and cultural roles and functions of imitation, including discussions of meme theory and cultural evolution, and of the pervasive imitative tendencies of normal adults and their relevance for understanding the effects of the media on human behavior.
About the Editors
Susan Hurley is Professor at the University of Warwick, and Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford.
Nick Chater is Professor of Psychology at the University of Warwick and Director of the Institute for Applied Cognitive Science.
"Hurley and Chater have put together the definitive collection on imitation. From mirror neurons to media violence to meme theory, you'll find it all here, cogently presented and debated. The set includes multiple chapters on mechanisms, the animal record, human development, and culture, each with a lively exchange of views and interpretations. A must-read for students of behavior, sociality, and culture."
—William H. Durham, Bing Professor in Human Biology and Chair of Anthropological Sciences, Stanford University
"Just a few years ago it seemed that study of the brain had no relevance for the social sciences. Now everyone wants to study the neural basis of social processes. This book explains why. Detailed discussions about the mechanisms of imitation show how we can make direct links from brain activity to the development of culture."
—Chris Frith, Institute of Neurology, University College London
"Here we encounter the very best of thinking, evidence, and debate on imitation (and beyond) from the very best of philosophers, scientists, and proponents of contrasting perspectives. It's brilliant and it's fun."
—R. Peter Hobson, Tavistock Professor of Developmental Psychopathology, University of London, and author of The Cradle of Thought
"Over the last decade, it has become clear that imitation is as central as language, technology, and cooperation to making us human. Other apes imitate, but fitfully and with difficulty. For us, it is as natural as walking and talking, and appears more quickly. Perspectives on Imitation is a superb resource for all of us trying to understand imitation. It ranges across the nature, evolution, and development of this remarkable trait, as well as its contribution to making us the distinctive creatures that we are."
—Kim Sterelny, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, and Australian National University