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Health Capsules
September 2009
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Human See, Human Do?

Imitation is the sincerest from of flattery, so they say. It may also help form social bonds. A new study reports that monkeys prefer humans who imitate them over those who don’t. The finding suggests that mimicking may act as a social glue, helping to bind individuals together.

People sometimes copy the body movements and postures of others without realizing it. Research has shown that people often feel more connected to those who copy them. They may be more likely to help their imitators or even leave them more generous tips. But it’s been unclear if this type of bonding is unique to humans.

To investigate, NIH-funded scientists studied capuchin monkeys, which tend to form strong social groups. Each monkey was given a ball and then paired with 2 human researchers. One investigator mimicked the monkey’s behavior by poking, mouthing or pounding the ball when the animal did. The other researcher behaved differently—for example, pounding the ball when the monkey poked it.

The scientists found that the monkeys tended to look longer at the researchers who imitated them. The animals also chose to spend more time with their imitators, and they preferred to engage in a simple task with them instead of with the non-imitators.

The scientists propose that imitation may be an ancient behavior that helped set the stage for primates to form social groups. The research may also shed light on human disorders in which imitation and bonding are impaired, such as certain forms of autism.

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Autism Spectrum Disorders


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Get Help for a Drinking Problem

  • Find a support group for older adults with alcohol problems.
  • Talk to your doctor. Ask about medicines that might help.
  • Visit a trained counselor who understands how alcohol problems affect older adults.
  • Choose individual, group or family therapy, depending on what works for you.
  • Join a 12-step program like Alcoholics Anonymous, which provides support for people who want to quit drinking.
  Drinking Problems and Older Adults

Can drinking problems begin later in life? How do you talk to an older person about his or her drinking? Get answers to these and other questions from Older Adults and Alcohol: You Can Get Help, a new booklet from NIH.

This colorful 20-page publication is filled with personal stories, checklists, practical tips and resources. Learn how alcohol interacts with medications, how heavy drinking affects health and how family, friends and caregivers might help if they’re concerned about someone’s drinking.

To download or order free copies of Older Adults and Alcohol, visit, or call NIH’s National Institute on Aging Information Center toll-free at 1-800-222-2225. For bulk orders of 25 booklets or more, visit


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NIDA for Teens

Learn how drugs affect the body, and hear from teens who’ve struggled with addiction. This interactive website has quizzes, videos, games and a blog that show the science behind drug abuse. A section for parents and teachers includes easy-to-read information and lesson plans.

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