For adults, imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery but for babies it's their foremost tool for learning.
As renowned people-watchers, babies often observe others demonstrate how to do things and then copy those body movements. It's how little ones know, usually without explicit instructions, to hold a toy phone to the ear or guide a spoon to the mouth.
Now researchers from the University of Washington and Temple University have found the first evidence revealing a key aspect of the brain processing that occurs in babies to allow this learning by observation.
"Babies are exquisitely careful people-watchers, and they're primed to learn from others," said Andrew Meltzoff, co-author and co-director of the UW Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences. "And now we see that when babies watch someone else, it activates their own brains. This study is a first step in understanding the neuroscience of how babies learn through imitation."