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Andrew Meltzoff discusses how imitation makes us human in this news article.

Beyond flattery: Why imitation could be humanity's most distinctive feature

Forget ‘monkey see, monkey do.’ ‘Human see, human do’ might be more accurate. But what does our incredible ability to imitate do for us?

— Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, or so the saying goes. But more than that, it might also be at the root of what makes us, well, human.

Starting in infancy, humans begin imitating others around them, sticking their tongues out when a caretaker does, holding toy telephones up to their ears, and waving back to anyone who waves at them. Imitation continues into adulthood, as we pick up the body language of someone we like, ask friends where they bought their “fabulous red shoes,” and don a certain company’s apparel because Michael Jordan wears it.

Imitation can get a bad reputation, but researchers say our species’ drive to imitate so readily is a significant mechanism through which we learn social norms, integrate into society, and build social connection. And, they say, this level of imitation might be what sets us apart from other species and may have set us on the path to building an advanced society.

"Human beings are the premier imitators on the planet," says Andrew Meltzoff, co-director of the University of Washington Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences.

Read the entire article here.