Automatic imitation: A meta-analysis.

Psychol Bull. 2018 Mar 08;:

Authors: Cracco E, Bardi L, Desmet C, Genschow O, Rigoni D, De Coster L, Radkova I, Deschrijver E, Brass M

Abstract
Automatic imitation is the finding that movement execution is facilitated by compatible and impeded by incompatible observed movements. In the past 15 years, automatic imitation has been studied to understand the relation between perception and action in social interaction. Although research on this topic started in cognitive science, interest quickly spread to related disciplines such as social psychology, clinical psychology, and neuroscience. However, important theoretical questions have remained unanswered. Therefore, in the present meta-analysis, we evaluated seven key questions on automatic imitation. The results, based on 161 studies containing 226 experiments, revealed an overall effect size of gz = 0.95, 95% CI [0.88, 1.02]. Moderator analyses identified automatic imitation as a flexible, largely automatic process that is driven by movement and effector compatibility, but is also influenced by spatial compatibility. Automatic imitation was found to be stronger for forced choice tasks than for simple response tasks, for human agents than for nonhuman agents, and for goalless actions than for goal-directed actions. However, it was not modulated by more subtle factors such as animacy beliefs, motion profiles, or visual perspective. Finally, there was no evidence for a relation between automatic imitation and either empathy or autism. Among other things, these findings point toward actor-imitator similarity as a crucial modulator of automatic imitation and challenge the view that imitative tendencies are an indicator of social functioning. The current meta-analysis has important theoretical implications and sheds light on longstanding controversies in the literature on automatic imitation and related domains. (PsycINFO Database Record

PMID: 29517262 [PubMed – as supplied by publisher]

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