imitation: Definition, Synonyms and Much More From


Imitation is an advanced animal behavior whereby an individual observes another's behavior and replicates it itself. It has been argued by Susan Blackmore in The Meme Machine, that imitation is what makes humans unique among animals. Imitation might have been selected as fit by evolution because those who were good at it had a wider arsenal of learned cultural behavior at their disposal, such as tool making or even language.

In anthropology, diffusion theories explain why cultures imitate the ideas or practices of other cultures. Some theories hold that all cultures imitate ideas from one or a few original cultures, the Adam of the Bible, or several cultural circles that overlap. Evolutionary diffusion theory holds that cultures are influenced by one another, but that similar ideas can be developed in isolation.

In mid-20th century, social scientists began to study how and why people imitate ideas. Everett Rogers pioneered diffusion of innovations studies, using research to prove factors in adoption and profiles of adopters of ideas.