Imitation and the Social Mind: Autism and Typical Development


From earliest infancy, a typically developing child imitates or mirrors the facial expressions, postures and gestures, and emotional behavior of others. Where does this capacity come from, and what function does it serve? What happens when imitation is impaired? Synthesizing cutting-edge research emerging from a range of disciplines, this important book examines the role of imitation in both autism and typical development. Topics include the neural and evolutionary bases of imitation, its pivotal connections to ...
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From earliest infancy, a typically developing child imitates or mirrors the facial expressions, postures and gestures, and emotional behavior of others. Where does this capacity come from, and what function does it serve? What happens when imitation is impaired? Synthesizing cutting-edge research emerging from a range of disciplines, this important book examines the role of imitation in both autism and typical development. Topics include the neural and evolutionary bases of imitation, its pivotal connections to language development and relationships, and how early imitative deficits in autism might help explain the more overt social and communication problems of older children and adults.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The importance of imitation as a fundamental component of social communication, and of its failure in autism, cannot be overstated. This is why imitation is one of the most active research themes in social-cognitive neuroscience. The leading researchers in the field have contributed to this volume, which is vital reading for all those currently trying to understand the social mind in both typical and atypical development."—Uta Frith, PhD, Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience and Department of Psychology, University College London, UK

"Truly an outstanding achievement! This unique volume brings together the world's foremost developmental psychologists, clinicians, and neuroscientists studying social cognition to provide critical, in-depth, and fresh perspectives on a topic that has captured the interest of philosophers and scientists for centuries. After reading the book, one appreciates more than ever how studies of typical and atypical populations mutually enhance our understanding of development. Scientists and practitioners alike will value this exceptional book."—Geraldine Dawson, PhD, Department of Psychology, University of Washington

"This outstanding volume brings together developmental and neurobiological research on the central role of imitation in the development of empathy, theory of mind, language, and social-affective reciprocity. The editors have brought together leading researchers whose work focuses on foundational aspects of imitation in typically and atypically developing children. The broad scope of this volume provides new theoretical insights on the neurocognitive mechanisms involved in imitation processes, highlighting the significance of the child’s interactions with others. A timely publication, the book is likely to stimulate renewed interest in imitation and generate investigations into novel therapeutic approaches for children with autism and related disorders. It should be required reading for anyone interested in basic and clinical perspectives on social development."—Helen Tager-Flusberg, PhD, Lab of Cognitive Neuroscience, Boston University School of Medicine

"A book that should grace the shelves of anyone interested in normal or abnormal human development, including of course researchers and clinicians involved in autism and experts in social learning and imitation....An extremely welcome addition to a rapidly growing literature on imitation....What makes this particular edited volume unique and important is the focus upon one disorder, autism, and the important insights that the imitative performance of children with autism offers to our understanding of typical development and the phenomenon of imitation in its own right. The individual contributions are consistently excellent and thought provoking. Nearly every chapter ends in a very useful concluding section that lists further questions that need to be addressed....Such an excellent volume will no doubt act as a catalyst in stimulating further vital research."—Autism
"Editors Sally J. Rogers and Justin H. G. Williams have given the field what promises to be the definitive work in this very complex area."—PsycCRITIQUES
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781593853112
  • Publisher: Guilford Publications, Inc.
  • Publication date: 6/7/2006
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 466
  • Sales rank: 990,488
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Sally J. Rogers, PhD, is Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the MIND Institute, University of California, Davis. Her work in autism represents a lifetime interest in developmental disabilities. Dr. Rogers's research on imitation in autism grew out of her clinical and research experiences while Professor of Psychiatry at JFK Partners at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. She was intrigued by the puzzling lack of normal mirroring and coordination with others' movements, gestures, and emotional displays that she experienced during interactions with children and adults with autism. This set in motion a line of studies focused on imitation problems in autism, and the creation of interventions to promote social responsivity and communication development.

Justin H. G. Williams, MRCPsych, commenced his scientific career in 1993, studying ecology and evolutionary biology before pursuing postgraduate training in psychiatry. He specialized in child psychiatry and moved to Scotland, where he started working with Andrew Whiten and David Perrett from the University of St. Andrews. Together, they considered the relationship of imitation to autism at a time when "mirror neurons" were a new phenomenon. In 2000 Dr. Williams became Senior Lecturer in Child Psychiatry, University of Aberdeen, where he has developed a research program to understand the neural substrate of autism. He also serves as Honorary Consultant in Child Psychiatry at Royal Aberdeen Children's Hospital.

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Table of Contents

I. Imitation in Typical Development
1. Studies of Imitation in Early Infancy: Findings and Theories, Sally J. Rogers
2. Vocal and Action Imitation by Infants and Toddlers during Dyadic Interactions: Development, Causes, and Consequences, Elise Frank Masur
3. Instrumental, Social, and Shared Goals and Intentions in Imitation, Malinda Carpenter
4. Mimicry and Autism: Bases and Consequences of Rapid, Automatic Matching Behavior, Eric J. Moody and Daniel N. McIntosh
5. Imitation and the Development of Language, Tony Charman
6. Does Imitation Matter to Children with Autism?, Jacqueline Nadel
7. Imitation and Self-Recognition in Autism: In Search of an Explanation, Mark Nielsen, Thomas Suddendorf, and Cheryl Dissanayake
8. Imitation, Theory of Mind, and Cultural Knowledge: Perspectives from Typical Development and Autism, Eva Loth and Juan Carlos Gómez
9. Imitation, Identification, and the Shaping of Mind: Insights from Autism, Peter Hobson and Jessica Meyer
II. Evolutionary and Neural Bases of Imitation
10. The Dissection of Imitation and Its "Cognitive Kin" in Comparative and Developmental Psychology, Andrew Whiten
11. A Cognitive Neuroscience View of Imitation, Jean Decety
III. Imitation in Autism and Other Clinical Groups: Biobehavioral Findings and Clinical Implications
12. Imitation in Autism: Findings and Controversies, Sally J. Rogers and Justin H. G. Williams
13. Longitudinal Research on Motor Imitation in Autism, Susan L. Hepburn and Wendy L. Stone
14. Measuring the Development of Motor-Control Processes, Mark Mon-Williams and James R. Tresilian
15. Neuroimaging Self-Other Mapping in Autism, Justin H. G. Williams and Gordon D. Waiter
16. Assessment of Imitation Abilities in Autism: Conceptual and Methodological Issues, Isabel M. Smith, Crystal Lowe-Pearce, and Shana L. Nichols
17. The Effect of Motor Disorders on Imitation in Children, Deborah Dewey and Shauna Bottos
18. Conclusions, Bruce F. Pennington, Justin H. G. Williams, and Sally J. Rogers

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