Tuesday, May 4, 2010

We're all copycats

I wish I could remember the name or source of the TV show I saw about chimps and people. A researcher built a contraption that released a grape, or maybe an M&M, after a series of steps. He taught the procedure to kids and to chimps. Each learned easily. Then he removed the sides of the contraption, so they could see inside and tell that only one of the steps was necessary. Kids kept following the old ritual, but chimps went straight for the food.

A similar study was just done with Australian preschoolers and Kalahari Bushmen, and the kids all followed the steps they were taught, even when they were clearly irrelevant. The researchers' conclusion was that copycat behavior is universal. I suspect it's mirror neurons firing.

This video has been going around. It's a baby watching Beyonce and imitating the dancers. More mirror neurons.

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