This study explored different gradations of emulation in the imitation of actions on objects by 17-month-olds. Experiment 1 established levels of behavioral reproduction following prerecorded video demonstrations similar to those levels following live demonstrations. In Experiment 2, two digitally modified videos, where object movements or body movements critical to producing the target action were highlighted in isolation, were developed. Infants produced the target action equally frequently by observing the object movement video and observing the unmodified video. In contrast, their performance was much less successful based on the body movement video. In Experiment 3, the performance obtained following the object movement video was similar to that following a further video that emphasized the object movements produced in unsuccessful attempts to produce the target action. These findings suggest that emulation in the form of object movement reenactment or affordance learning plays a role in the social learning of actions on objects during infancy.
Journal of Experimental Child Psychology,92(3),276-302