UCL Psychology and Language Sciences


Speech Science Forum 28th January - Carina de Klerk

28 January 2021, 4:00 pm–5:00 pm

Please join us on the 28th of January Carina de Klerk's talk, "The development and modulation of mimicry in infancy and toddlerhood".

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Dr. Antony Scott Trotter – Speech, Hearing and Phonetic Science

Title: The development and modulation of mimicry in infancy and toddlerhood


Humans have a tendency to spontaneously and unconsciously copy or ‘mimic’ others’ actions. This mimicry plays an important role in communication and affiliation, yet little is known about its development. In this talk I will present data from a longitudinal project that aimed to investigate the cognitive and neural mechanisms supporting the development of facial mimicry from infancy to toddlerhood.

The dominant view on the neural basis of mimicry appeals to an automatic coupling between perception and action. One theory suggests that these couplings are formed through associative learning during correlated sensorimotor experience. The first two studies I will present provide support for this idea by showing that perceptual-motor couplings can be formed through observing one’s own actions and imitative social partners, and that they play a role in supporting mimicry behaviours. Although mimicry is often thought to be an automatic consequence of these perceptual-motor couplings, recent studies with adults have demonstrated that mimicry is flexibly modulated by social signals, such as eye contact, and social motivations, such as the desire to affiliate. I will present several studies that show that facial mimicry is modulated by social signals and social motivations in infancy and toddlerhood, suggesting that the foundations of mimicry’s role in social interaction and affiliation are present from early in life.

About the Speaker

Dr. Carina de Klerk

Lecturer at University of Essex

Dr. de Klerk completed her undergraduate and research master degrees in Developmental Psychology at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands. In 2010 she moved to London to start a PhD at the Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development, Birkbeck College. In PhD research she investigated how action experience influences the strength of perceptual-motor couplings in the infant brain, and the role these couplings play in the infant’s ability to predict other’s actions. Dr. de Klerk's subsequent postdoctoral research investigated the development of mimicry from infancy to toddlerhood. She joined the Department of Psychology at Essex University as a lecturer in January 2019.

More about Dr. Carina de Klerk