Selective Imitation of In-Group Over Out-Group Members in 14-Month-Old Infants


  • We thank Maxim Bannack for being the model, and Andrea Hamann, Wiebke Rahmlow, Caterina Böttcher, and Stephanie Trapp for help with the data collection. We also thank two anonymous reviewers and Harriet Over for helpful comments on a previous version of the manuscript. Last but not least, we thank all parents and infants for participating in our study.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to David Buttelmann, University of Erfurt/Research Group “Kleinkindforschung in Thueringen,” Nordhaeuser Str. 63, D-99089 Erfurt, Germany. Electronic mail may be sent to


Recent research has shown that infants are more likely to engage with in-group over out-group members. However, it is not known whether infants' learning is influenced by a model's group membership. This study investigated whether 14-month-olds (= 66) selectively imitate and adopt the preferences of in-group versus out-group members. Infants watched an adult tell a story either in their native language (in-group) or a foreign language (out-group). The adult then demonstrated a novel action (imitation task) and chose 1 of 2 objects (preference task). Infants did not show selectivity in the preference task, but they imitated the in-group model more faithfully than the out-group model. This suggests that cultural learning is beginning to be truly cultural by 14 months of age.