Data for: Only Domain-Specific Imitation Practice Makes Imitation Perfect

Published: 25 September 2018| Version 1 | DOI: 10.17632/82wj7wvjdj.1
Francys Subiaul, Rachel Barr, Laura Zimmermann, Eric Patterson


In order to identify the component cognitive processes underlying spatial imitation learning, we presented all participants with a pre- and post-practice spatial imitation test. Children that failed to correctly imitate during the pre-test were randomly assigned to one of four groups (3 experimental practice groups and 1 "free play" no practice group). children in the Spatial Imitation group, practiced both jointly attending, vicariously encoding and subsequently copying the observed novel spatial sequences. In the Item Imitation group, children practiced both jointly attending, vicariously encoding and copying a series of observed novel item-based sequences, rather than spatial-based sequences. In the Trial-and-Error group, children practiced encoding and recalling a series of novel spatial sequences entirely through individual (associative) learning. Children in the Free play “no practice” control group, played a touchscreen drawing game that controlled for practice time on the touch-screen and mirrored some of the same actions and responses used in the experimental conditions. Results of the difference between pre- and post-practice effects on novel spatial imitation sequences showed that only the Spatial Imitation practice group significantly improved relative to the Free Play group. Individual Spatial Trial-and-Error practice did not significantly improve spatial imitation. The effect of Item Imitation practice was intermediate. These results are inconsistent with the hypothesis that general processes alone support imitation learning and is more consistent with mosaic models that posit an additive—interaction—effect on imitation performance mediated by both specialized imitation mechanisms, as well as input from less specialized social attention or social learning mechanisms.