Homo imitants or homo provocans? Human imprinting model of neonatal imitations

Emese Nagy, Peter Molnar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

98 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 and Development
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1 2004


  • Communication
  • Heart rate
  • Imitation
  • Imprinting
  • Neonates

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

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