Behavioral and Brain Sciences

Open Peer Commentary
Byrne & Russon: Learning by imitation

Hoist by their own petard: The constraints of hierarchical models

B. Vereijken a1 and H. T. A. Whiting a1
a1 Department of Psychology and Idrettsvitenskapelig Institutt Norwegian University of Science and Technology, 7034 Trondheim, Norway


In the context of the motor skill literature on observational learning and hierarchical skill structuring, Byrne & Russon's findings call into question their standpoint that great apes imitate the behaviour of role models at the programme level. The authors impose a hierarchical model on their observations without properly considering alternative explanations. One such possibility, which stems from a constraints perspective that they dismiss, is put forward.