Andrew N. Meltzoff is a developmental psychologist whose research focuses on social and emotional development in infants and young children. His discoveries about preverbal infant psychology greatly advanced the scientific understanding of early cognition, personality and brain development. The work shows that infants can equate their own unseen behaviors with gestures they see others perform.
A graduate of Harvard University,received his Ph.D. (1976) from Oxford University, with Jerome Bruner as his thesis advisor. A professor of psychology at the University of Washington since 1988, he holds the Job and Gertrud Tamaki Endowed Chair and is the Co-Director of the University of Washington Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences. In 1977 the ground-breaking paper by Meltzoff, and M. Keith Moore of the University of Washington is published in Science “Imitation of Facial and Manual Gestures by Human Neonates”. The paper says infants between 12 and 21 days of age can imitate both facial and manual gestures, which cannot be explained in terms of either conditioning or innate releasing mechanisms. Interestingly, Dr. Meltzoff and others have found that children with autism have impairments in imitation and gaze-following. He has developed the “like me” hypothesis based on his research of infant development, which suggests that it is imitation that is inborn, and the understanding of other’s mental states is a consequence.
His later research has included the investigation of memory and development of communications in children with autism. Meltzoff in collaboration with neuroscientist Jean Decety, has started to investigate the neural mechanisms basis for imitation empathy and gaze-following.
He is coauthor of a landmark book about early learning and the brain: The Scientist in the Crib: What Early Learning Tells Us about the Mind. He received MERIT Award and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.
Dr. Meltzoff is active in volunteer work concerning children, and served on the board of directors of various foundations. He is active in media outlets too. He is married to Dr. Patricia K. Kuhl (reputed speech and hearing scientist and language acquisition researcher), and they have one daughter.