Monkeys, like people, prefer mimics: study


June 18, 2010 Updated Aug 14, 2009 at 2:30 AM EDT

Imitating others has long been seen as a useful way to explore the world -- monkey see, monkey do -- but imitation could also make monkeys popular, a study has found.

Experts examining the habits of capuchins have discovered the monkeys build closer bonds with human playmates who mimic their behavior than with those who do not.

In the study some monkeys were exposed to researchers who imitated their behavior with a small ball; others were paired with researchers whose actions did not.

"After the imitation sequence, the monkeys consistently spent more time near the investigator who imitated them than with the investigator who did not," the researchers said.

And the same may be true for humans, according to the group's findings, published in the August 14 edition of the journal Science.

"Human beings prefer the behavior of other people who subtly imitate their behavior and other affects," said Duane Alexander, a senior expert at the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), where part of the study was carried out.

While humans often assume the body postures, mannerisms or gestures of people they meet although neither party tends to be aware of the imitation, it nonetheless promotes social links, the researchers found.

It is hoped the findings "may lead to insights into disorders in which imitation and bonding is impaired such as certain forms of autism," explained Alexander.

The study was carried out by researchers at the NIH, the Italian National Research Council and the University of Parma.

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