Wednesday, 31 July 2019.
The imitative act functions by allowing the child to place herself in the body, or in the position, of someone else who exhibits some particular behavior. Thus, what she really wants to “see” when she imitates another person’s behaviors or actions, is the inner world of that person. She wishes to see and understand the mental attitudes, the feelings, the thoughts, and the “what-it’s-like”, of being that other person. And this is because the young child has unconsciously realized that she cannot see directly the mental attitudes, the feelings, the thoughts, and the “what-it’s-like”, of another person. She realizes that she must find a way to bridge the gap of ignorance that stands between herself and the other person.
This instinct is very complex, actually. And so, we should not think that children imitate just simply to imitate, or even to mock (the mocking function of imitation comes later, with awareness of one’s own self-awareness and of the existence of other minds). We should not think that it is a base or low thing to imitate – at least, not when young children (and some adults, granted) do it. There is a very profound reason that has to do with what it is to be a homo sapiens sapiens.