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    Default Neonatal Imitation Project

    Your baby, right from birth, may be trying to communicate with you – long before he or she can smile and talk. Through imitation games involving facial expressions, hand gestures and vocal sounds, your baby may be communicating with you and others in their social environment.

    Unfortunately though, this is not known for sure; these imitative responses might just be reflexes or a response due to arousal and not necessarily a true sign of communication. While some research has investigated this issue over the past 30 years, there is still not a definitive answer and much controversy still exists. Therefore, at the Early Cognitive Development Centre in the School of Psychology, we are currently undertaking a large-scale project to establish whether imitation in the newborn period exists, and to determine whether babies’ imitative gestures are linked to later achievements in social responding and communication.

    We invite you to participate with your infant in this research. The title of the project is:

    Do babies imitate from birth? Charting the prevalence, time course and social-cognitive correlates of neonatal imitation".

    This study will be carried out within a longitudinal framework, meaning that multiple tests will be completed from birth to 18 months. The tests will always involve the filming of a 10-minute imitation game between the experimenter and your baby. We will also, on different occasions, assess your baby’s reflexes, motor development, temperament and communicative development. During testing, you are with your baby at all times.

    The first six tests, which we will try to schedule when your baby is 1-2, then 3, then 6, 9, 12 and 18 weeks old, will take place in your home, at a time that is convenient and agreeable to you. Each visit should take about half an hour. An additional four tests, which we will try to schedule when your baby is 24 weeks, 9 months, 12 months and 18 months old, will take place at the Early Cognitive Development Unit in the School of Psychology at UQ. These appointments will also take about half an hour, and parking is provided. In appreciation of your willingness to travel to the ECDC to participate in the study, we will offer your baby a certificate of participation and a small gift at the conclusion of each lab visit.

    During testing, your baby will be videotaped. All data that we record will be kept strictly private and confidential and at any time during the testing should your baby become upset or distressed, the testing will stop immediately. You may withdraw from any testing session, or from the study as a whole, at any time and for any reason.

    This study is being conducted by a team of developmental psychologists from the School of Psychology at UQ: Professor Virginia Slaughter, Dr. Mark Nielsen, Professor Thomas Suddendorf and Ms. Janine Oostenbroek. The study has been cleared in accordance with the ethical review processes of the University of Queensland and within the guidelines of the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research. If you wish to discuss your participation with project staff please feel free to phone Siobhan Kennedy, a research assistant associated with the project (contact details are at the end of this letter).

    We would very much appreciate your voluntary participation in this study. The results of this study will provide new and important information about early imitation in babies and should clarify whether or not they communicate through imitation from birth. Your assistance will be greatly appreciated and at the conclusion of your participation in the project, we will send you a description of the outcomes as well as a video diary of your baby’s development compiled from the video footage gathered during your participation in the study. You will also receive biannual ECDC newsletters with updates on the outcomes of this and other studies going on in our lab.

    If you are interested in taking part in this study, please contact Siobhan Kennedy to make an appointment. Siobhan is reachable by email: siobhan.kennedy@uqconnect.edu.au. Thank you in advance for your generous participation.

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