Imitation is really a basic form of learning. It is observing the behavior of others, assuming the same positions and trying to duplicate the same results. Being able to see someone else perform a task gives more confidence that you'll be able to perform it yourself. Operant conditioning starts off with a neutral behavior and then is either positively reinforced or negatively reinforced. A positive reinforcer is any type of reward system and a negative reinforcer would be a type of punishment. If the behavior is positively reinforced it will most likely lead to repetition of that behavior.
If the behavior is negatively reinforced it may cause a cessation of that behavior. Since punishment will always want to be avoided and being rewarded for behavior will make you want to repeat that behavior; that's how operant conditioning assists in learning. The father in the YouTube video repeats the movements a few times so baby can understand he is doing and can apply it to himself. The father's smile and laughter positively reinforces the baby to imitate him. If the father had been angry and not interacting with the baby then it probably would have had the opposite effect.
Since the baby was positively reinforced he was able to imitate his father. According to Blackwell Handbook of Infant Development; “… six month olds imitating adult’s actions on objects after a 24-hour delay… But when the same demonstration is televised, infants do not imitate the same multistep action they did before they are 18 months old. ”(Bremner). “Between 14 to 15 months, however, infants can imitate some televised actions. ”(Bremner). This is interesting because it proves that watching television is not always the best educational route, a baby can use more stimulation than just sitting in front of a screen.
Vygotsky's Social learning theory is almost learning by imitation. A child may observe how those close to them and around them act. By being observant they may learn what is socially acceptable in their culture. A toddler can apply this practice by imitating or testing the waters and see how far others will let him go. “Eventually, through interaction within the socio-cultural environment, these are developed into more sophisticated and effective mental processes/strategies which he refers to as Higher Mental Functions. ”(McLeod). This basically means that after a while through interaction they will have a more developed way of thinking.
In the video where the baby's imitating the father the whole situation was a positive experience. The mother and father were both talking in nice light voices, smiling and laughing. So he was being encouraged socially and their expresses were telling him that it was okay to imitate. In the video in the book the mother and baby are demonstrating the Zone of Proximal Development. The Zone of Proximal Development is basically like a mentor or a teacher that provides help; or a term called scaffolding. They interject at parts where you may be confused and explain how to get through it so you can complete the task successfully.
Berk, L. E. (1995-2013). Infants and Children Prenatal Through Middle Childhood (7th ed.). N.p.: Pearson Education, Inc.
Bremner, G., & Fogel, A. (Eds.). (2001). Blackwell Handbook of Infant Development (p. 153). Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers Ltd. Retrieved March 6, 2013, from http://books.google.com/bookshl=en&lr=&id=GVdeYJgPmTMC&oi=fnd&pg=PA139&dq=free+reports+on+operant+conditioning+and+imitation+in+babies+&ots=XQM09wlIjw&sig=Bj_ZjVSr8OdldcPHqeL2ndsAOyk#v=onepage&q&f=fa
McLeod, S. (2007). Lev Vygotsky. In Simply Psychology. Retrieved March 6, 2013, from http://www.simplypsychology.org/vygotsky.html