We sought to develop a method for measuring imitation accuracy objectively in primary school children. Children imitated a model drawing shapes on the same computer-tablet interface they saw used in video clips, allowing kinematics of model and observers’ actions to be directly compared. Imitation accuracy was reported as a correlation reflecting the statistical dependency between values of the model's and participant's set of actions, or as a mean absolute difference between them. Children showed consistent improvement in imitation accuracy across middle childhood. They appeared to rationalize the demands of the task by remembering duration and size of action, which enabled them to re-enact speed through motor-planning mechanisms. Kinematic measures may provide a window into the cognitive mechanisms involved in imitation.
This work was carried out as part of a master's of science undertaken by JMC. JHGW is supported by the Northwood Trust.