Homo imitans or homo provocans? Human imprinting model of neonatal imitation

Emese Nagy, Peter Molnar

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    125 Citations (Scopus)


    Searching for the mechanism of neonatal imitation resulted in the discovery of neonatal initiative capacity, here called “provocation”. Newborns spontaneously produced previously imitated gestures while waiting for the experimenter’s response. A psychophysiological analysis revealed that imitation was accompanied by heart rate increase while gesture initiation was accompanied by heart rate deceleration, suggesting different underlying mechanisms. Results imply that infants are not only capable of responding to a model movement by imitating, but that they also have the capacity to provoke an imitative response, thus sustaining an interaction. These findings may constitute a laboratory demonstration of the first dialogue and, according to our hypothetical model, they represent how human imprinting begins.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)54-63
    Number of pages10
    JournalInfant Behavior & Development
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Feb 2004


    • Imitation
    • Neonates
    • Communication
    • Heart rate
    • Imprinting


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