Some researchers have proposed that neonatal imitation is an adaptive mechanism that developed to encourage social interaction between parents and their babies. Others suggest that babies use imitation to elicit and maintain adult-infant social interactions. If this is the case, infants who show a high frequency of imitation should have caregivers who report stronger feelings of affection and/or bonding than infants showing low levels of imitation.
In order to test this idea, I conducted a study where parents either practiced tongue poking with their newborn or deliberately engaged in face-to-face interactions with them every day for two weeks. A comparison group of parents and babies received no special instructions. Parents filled out questionnaires looking at the parent-infant relationship before and then after the two weeks of interactions.
These findings are currently in press and will be published soon.
Kennedy-Costantini, S., & Nielsen, M. (in press). Exploring potential causes of individual differences in the expression of neonatal imitation. In V. Zeigler-Hill & T. K. Schackelford (Eds.), The SAGE Handbook of Personality and Individual Differences. London, UK: SAGE.