Reducing the mapping between perception and action facilitates imitation

Oliver Perra, M. Gattis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


This study investigated two hypotheses regarding the mapping of perception to action during imitation. The first hypothesis predicted that as children’s cognitive capacities increase the tendency to map one goal and disregard others during imitation should decrease. This hypothesis was tested by comparing the performances of 168 4- to 7-year-olds in a gestural imitation task developed by Bekkering, Wohlschläger, and Gattis. The second hypothesis predicted that reducing the mapping between perception and action should reduce the demands on the cognitive resources of the child. This hypothesis was tested by creating a condition in which perception and action overlapped by sharing objects between experimenter and child. In three experimental conditions, an adult modelled four gestures, directed at either: 1) one of two sets of round stickers (proprietary objects); 2) the same location on the table, without any sticker (no objects); or 3) one set of round stickers, which were shared with the child (shared objects). The results confirmed both hypotheses. Four- and five-year-olds imitated less accurately when imitation involved mapping of both objects and movements (proprietary and shared objects) than when imitation involved mapping movements only (no objects). Seven-year-olds imitated accurately in all three conditions, demonstrating that increased cognitive capacity allowed them to map multiple goals from perception to action. Most importantly, reducing the mapping between perception and action in the shared objects condition facilitated imitation, specifically for the transitional group, 6-year-olds. We conclude that mapping between perception and action is not direct, but resembles mapping relations in analogical reasoning: cognitive processes mediate mapping from perception to action.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)133-144
Number of pages12
JournalBritish Journal of Developmental Psychology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


Dive into the research topics of 'Reducing the mapping between perception and action facilitates imitation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this