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"Originals are, and ought to be, great Favourites, for they are great Benefactors; they extend the Republic of Letters, and add a new province to its dominion: Imitators only give us a sort of Duplicates of what we had, possibly much better, before." --Conjectures on Original Composition (1759) by Edward Young

"The only way for us to become great lies in the imitation of the Greeks" --Winckelmann

"We stand on the shoulders of giants"

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Imitation is an advanced behavior whereby an individual observes and replicates another's. The word can be applied in many contexts, ranging from animal training to international politics.

In anthropology, diffusion theories explain why cultures imitate the ideas or practices of other cultures. Some theories hold that all cultures imitate ideas from one or a few original cultures, the Adam of the Bible, or several cultural circles that overlap. Evolutionary diffusion theory holds that cultures are influenced by one another, but that similar ideas can be developed in isolation.

In music, it refers to the repetition of a phrase played on one instrument or voice by another.

In mid-20th century, social scientists began to study how and why people imitate ideas. Everett Rogers pioneered diffusion of innovations studies, using research to prove factors in adoption and profiles of adopters of ideas.

Recent work in neuroscience has begun to reveal the mechanisms of imitation in the human brain. It seems that there is a system of mirror neurons which are active both when you see another person act and when you do the same thing yourself, and these may allow humans to learn by imitation.

It has been argued by Susan Blackmore in The Meme Machine, that imitation is what makes humans unique among animals. Imitation might have been selected as fit by evolution because those who were good at it had a wider arsenal of learned cultural behavior at their disposal, such as tool making or even language.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Imitation" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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