The Effect of Narrative Cues on Infants’ Imitation From Television and Picture Books


  • Support for this article was provided by NIH Grant HD056084 to Rachel Barr and Gabrielle Simcock. Special thanks to Natalie Brito, Paula McIntyre, Philippa Neary, and Emily Atkinson for their help in the coding and collation of this data. A very special thank you to all the families who made this research possible.

concerning this article should be addressed to Gabrielle Simcock, Early Cognitive Development Unit, School of Psychology, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Qld 4072, Australia. Electronic mail may be sent to


Infants can imitate a novel action sequence from television and picture books, yet there has been no direct comparison of infants’ imitation from the 2 types of media. Varying the narrative cues available during the demonstration and test, the current experiments measured 18- and 24-month-olds’ imitation from television and picture books. Infants imitated from both media types when full narrative cues (Experiment 1; = 76) or empty, meaningless narration (Experiment 2; = 135) accompanied the demonstrations, but they imitated more from television than books. In Experiment 3 (= 27), infants imitated from a book based on narration alone, without the presence of pictures. These results are discussed in relation to age-related changes in cognitive flexibility and infants’ emerging symbolic understanding.