Integrative Seminar
for the FPR-UCLA Center for Culture, Brain and Development


Psychiatry 272, Anthropology M234Q

Tuesdays 12-3:00

Winter, 2003

310 Haines Hall (Forum talks will be in Haines 352)


Instructors: Alan P. Fiske, Marco Iacoboni, Marian Sigman


Alan Fiske, 324B Haines, 310-206-7719 or (study at home ) 310-265-9239,
Office hours by appointment.


Marco Iacoboni, 265 Brain Mapping Center, 310-206-3992,

Office hours by appointment


Marian Sigman, 68-237C NPI, 310-825-0180, 310-825-8866,

Office hours by appointment.



We welcome participation by all interested graduate students, post-docs, and faculty.  This seminar is required for new participants in the FPR-UCLA Center from Culture, Brain, and Development ( 


The required book, David Lancy, Playing on the Mother Ground, and the reader, are available at the Ackerman UCLA Bookstore.



The goal of this seminar is to integrate knowledge across anthropology, neuroscience, and developmental psychology to understand the interrelations of culture, brain, and development. The focus of this course will be on imitation and its relations with theory of mind, and autism. In particular we will discuss:

(1)  Development of imitation in normal and autistic infants and children;

(2)  Neural mechanisms of imitation, from single-unit data in nonhuman primates to neural systems studies in humans with functional neuroimaging and neuropsychological approaches;

(3)  Computational and robotics approaches to imitation;

(4)  Imitation as the core mechanism for development of cultural competence;

(5)  Imitation as a human adaptive specialization;

(6)  The cultural elaboration of imitation in schools in Cameroon;

(7)  Acquisition of theory of mind in normal and autistic children;

(8) Neuropsychological and imaging data on theory of mind and autism.



The course explores imitation from the perspective of culture, brain, and development.  We will explore how imitation may be related to theory of mind and autism.  Week 1 will be devoted to basic concepts of anthropology, neuroscience, and developmental psychology. Weeks 2 to 7 will be devoted to imitation from the perspective of the anthropologist, of the neuroscientist, and of the developmental psychologist.  Weeks 8 to 10 will be devoted to intentional relations, theory of mind and autism. The forum speakers have been chosen because their own research integrates across at least two of the three perspectives.



1. Two papers, one due February 11 and the other due around March 17. 


2.  Comments or conceptual queries on each week’s reading, and follow-up questions for each Forum speaker.  Reading comments should consist of two or three paragraphs, raising fundamental issues about the readings, exploring important methodological issues, or making connections with materials from the other two disciplines.  Questions for Forum speakers should raise significant conceptual or methodological issues.  These comments and questions should be posed on the class web discussion board by 3:00 PM the Monday before the class session for which readings are assigned, and, for the Forum questions, the following Monday.  We hope most Forum speakers will reply on the Discussion Board  and we encourage seminar participants to post responses to each other’s comments.  (BOL accounts are needed to post comments; please see Janet Tomiyama or your department staff if you don’t have a BOL account.)


3.  Participation in class discussion.


Grades will be based one-half on written work, one-quarter on web-based discussion, and one-quarter on class participation.



Week 1, January 7  

Basic Concepts In Culture, Brain, And Development:
Their Interdisciplinary Study (Fiske, Iacoboni, Sigman)



Horwitz B, Friston KJ, Taylor JG (2000) Neural modeling and functional brain imaging: an overview. Neural Networks 13:829-846.

LeVine, Robert A. 1984. Properties of Culture: An Ethnographic View. In Richard A. Shweder & Robert A. LeVine, Culture Theory: Essays on Mind, Self, and Emotion (pp. 67-87.) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Weeks 2 – 7: Imitation

Week 2, January 14

Comparative Phylogeny of Imitation and its Implications for Human Cultural Transmission

Robert Boyd, Forum Speaker



Peter J. Richerson and Robert Boyd. The Nature of Cultures, Chapters 4 and 5 Unpublished manuscript.


Week 3, January 21

Imitation in Human Development (Marian Sigman):



Meltzoff, A.N.& Moore, M.K. (1997), Explaining facial imitation: A theoretical model. Early Development and Parenting, 6,179-192.

Forman, D. & Kochanska, G. (2001). Viewing imitation as child responsiveness: a link between teaching and discipline domains. Developmental Psychology, 37, 198-206.

Carpenter, M., Call, J. & Tomasello, M. (2002). Understanding ‘prior intentions’ enables twp-year-olds to imitatively learn a complex task. Child Development, 73, 1431-1442.


Week 4, January 28

Learning languages by heart: guided repetition in Koranic and public school in Maroua, Cameroon

Leslie Moore, Forum Speaker



Demuth, Katherine 1986    Prompting routines in the language socialization of Basotho children. In Language Socialization across Cultures. B. Schieffelin and E. Ochs, eds. Pp. 51-79. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Moerk, Ernst L. 1989    The fuzzy set called "imitations". In The Many Faces of Imitation in Language Learning. G.E. Speidel and K.E. Nelson, eds. Pp. 277-303. New York: Springer-Verlag.

Speidel, Gisela E., and Keith E. Nelson 1989    A fresh look at imitation in language learning. In The Many Faces of Imitation in Language Learning. G.E. Speidel and K.E. Nelson, eds. Pp. 1-19. New York: Springer-Verlag.

Eickelman, Dale F. 1978    The art of memory: Islamic education and its social reproduction. Comparative Studies in Society and History 20:485-516.


Week 5, February 4

Imitation Is the Core Mechanism for the Development of Cultural Competence ( Alan Fiske)



Lancy, David F. 1996. Playing on the Mother-Ground: Cultural Routines for Children's Development. Guilford Press. (book available at the Ackerman UCLA Bookstore).

For ethnographic and general background on the Kpelle, see the following (source is Encyclopedia of World Cultures, copywrite Macmillan and HRAF):

For general information on Liberia, home of the Kpelle, see

For current news on Liberia, see this UN source:


Also recommended (on reserve at YRL)

Gabriel Tarde,  1900.   Les Lois de L'Imitation; Etude Sociologique.  Third Edition, revised and augmented. Paris: Felix Alcan.  (Tarde argued that a society is a collection of individuals who imitate [or counter-imitate] each other, or who imitate the same third party. The English translation is on reserve, as The Laws of Imitation, translated from the 2d French ed. by Elsie Clews Parsons, 1962.)

Baldwin, James Mark 1911  The Individual and Society; or Psychology and Sociology.  Boston: Gorham Press.  (Wrote on imitation as the framework for sociality and cultural transmission.)

Fortes, Meyer 1938.  Social and Psychological Aspects of Education in Taleland.  London : Published by the Oxford University Press for the International Institute of African Languages and Cultures. International Institute of African Languages and Cultures. [Memorandum XVII];  Africa. Supplement. 11, no. 4.  (Emphasizes the ways cultural learning is integrated into everyday life, as children observe and participate in daily activities.)


Week 6, February 11

Imitation Deficits in Autism

Sally Rogers, Forum Speaker:



Charman, T., Swettenham, J., Baron-Cohen, S., Cox, A., Baird, G. & Drew, A. (1997).Infants with autism: an investigation of empathy, pretend play, joint attention, and imitation. Developmental Psychology, 33, 781-789.  

Rogers, S.J., Pennington, B.F. (1991). A theoretical approach to the deficits in infantile autism. Development & Psychopathology, 3 (2), 137-162.

Rogers, S. J.; Bennetto, L., McEvoy, R., Pennington, B.F.  (1996). Imitation and pantomime in high-functioning adolescents with autism spectrum disorders. Child Development, 67 (5), 2060-2073.

Sigman, M. D., Kasari, C., Kwon, J. & Yirmiya, N. (1992). Response to the negative emotions of others by autistic, mentally retarded, and normal children. Child Development, 63, 796-807.


Week 7, February 18

Neural Mechanisms of Imitation (Iacoboni)

Part I.                     Neural systems for motor control

Part II.            Neural and computational mechanisms of human imitation

Part III.           The neuroscience of understanding: imitation, language, empathy



Iacoboni, M. (in press) Understanding others: Imitation, language, empathy. In Hurley, S., Chater, N.(eds.) Perspectives on Imitation: From Cognitive Neuroscience to Social Science. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.


Rizzolatti G, Luppino G(2001) The cortical motor system. Neuron 31:889-901.


Wolpert DM, Ghahramani Z,Flanagan JR (2001) Perspectives and problems in motor learning. Trends Cogn Sci5:487-494.


Jellema, T., Baker, C.I.,Wicker, B. & Perrett, D.I. (2000) Neural representation for the perceptionof the intentionality of actions. Brain Cogn, 44,280-302.



Weeks 8-10: Intentional Relations, Theory Of Mind And Autism


Week 8, February 25

The neuroscience of mindreading and autism

Mirella Dapretto, Forum Speaker:



Frith, U. (2001) Mindblindness and the brain in autism. Neuron, 32, 969-979.

Dawson, G., Carver, L., Meltzoff, A.N., Panagiotides, H., McPartland, J. & Webb, S.J. (2002) Neural correlates of face and object recognition in young children with autism spectrum disorder, developmental delay, and typical development. Child Dev, 73,700-717.


Week 9, March 4

The development of theory of mind and its dysfunction (Marian Sigman):


Wellman, H.M., Cross, D., & Watson, J. (2001). Meta-analysis of theory-of-mind development: The truth about false belief. Child Development, 72, 655-684.

Moses, L.J. (2001). Executive accounts of theory-of-mind development. Child Development, 72, 688-690.

Scholl, B.J.& Leslie, A.M. (2001). Minds, modules, and meta-analysis. Child Development, 72, 696-701.

Wellman, H.M. & Cross, D. (2001). Theory of mind and conceptual change. Child Development, 72, 702-707.

Baron-Cohen, S, Leslie, A.M., & Frith, U. (1985). Does the autistic child have a ‘theory of mind’? Cognition, 21, 37-46.


Week 10, March 11

Intentional relations and social understanding

John Barresi, Forum Speaker:


Barresi, J. & Moore, C.  (1996).  Intentional relations and social understanding.  Behav Brain Sci, 19, 107-121.