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Lovelocke's avatar

Why do children "Copy" and teens/adults "Emulate"?

Asked by Lovelocke (1609points) October 5th, 2008
9 responses
“Great Question” (3points)

When one kid repeats or does something the same as another kid, we used to say “He copied that” or “He’s a copy cat”. When politicians refer to things like violent movies or video games as motivators for crimes in high school and so on, they use the word “Emulate”... like “The racing accident occurred when Lovelocke tried to emulate the jump he saw in the film”.

Is there some reason for the difference, and why they largely appear to have the same usage? Is it because there’s actual legal text or something that specifically uses the word “Emulate”?

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Bri_L's avatar

My take would be this.

Copy is duplication with out necessarily understanding. I have a movie of my twin brother and I when we were 1 we were in high chairs next to each other. My brother smacked his little birthday cake and started to wail. He discovered it was fun and kept doing it. I saw him, and you could see me doing what he was doing but you could tell on my face I didn’t know why. Then you could see me discover why. It can work the other way to. They copy and laugh with out really understanding, like when a younger child copies an older one.

When we emulate we attempt to match with the intent of imitation. We are aware of what we are doing and are trying to achieve a preconceived specific result.

Kinda wordy huh?

damien's avatar

I agree with all the above but want to add that in my view, emulating something is copying but adding a bit of your own spin or slight modification to the original (perhaps through greater understanding as Bri suggests). For example, a computer emulator will ‘act as’ the original but is not trying to copy it directly. Functionality-wise, it’s trying to copy the original, but as a whole, it’s a different entity with. To me, emulating is about the result whereas copying is the entire process.

Same goes for the usage of imitate, IMO. To me, it has slightly more to it than a carbon-copy of whatever it’s imitating.

DrasticDreamer's avatar

For me personally, I think when children copy each other it’s on more of a basic, primitive level. Essentially, people are pack animals. In order to survive, we have to act together, live together, etc. When we do the same things and are the same way, that becomes much easier.

When teens and older adults emulate someone, it becomes more personal and is much more thought-out. Where children don’t really have the choice to copy someone – it just comes naturally – teens and adults do. They actually make a conscious effort (most of the time) to emulate someone. Often times it’s because they admire someone. They might like their integrity, their fashion, their success (the possibilities are endless) and so want to emulate that part of another person’s behavior, because they see it as something positive and worthy of duplication.

jvgr's avatar

My view:

Copying is a way most children learn some basic skills (holding a spoon, etc) as they haven’t the logic to figure it out in their minds.

Acting like:
(not one of your choices) is what we all do when we seek to curry favor with a group with which we want to be identified, or that the specific activity looks like fun. I’d say that most professional sports include this as a primary motivator (looks fun, I’m doing it and it is fun…)

Plagarism is copying
which seeks to present us as accomplished instead of lazy or inept.

Emulate is adopting the characteristics, philosophy, attitudes of someone we believe is important and has lived a life that is admirable. It doesn’t necessarily require that we adopt the specific activities of those we emulate.

dlm812's avatar

Simple. Kohlberg’s theory of moral development. “Copying” exists in the first two stages of development – where a child would be placed. “Emulation” exists in the 3rd and 4th stages – where a person is developing into an adult. A person who is in the 5th or 6th stage neither copies nor emulates.

Sakata's avatar

Teens & adults are more mature so more mature language is used.

Happens all the time with just about everything. Just another form of euphemism like “he 90 years young” or how “partly cloudy” became “partly sunny”
Or, my personal favorite, “handi-capable” instead of “handicapped”. What ever happened to just plain ol’ “crippled”?

You’re still missed Mr. Carlin

Zen's avatar

@Sakata Never cared for “crippled” tho I got your George Carlin reference. Handicapped is bad enough, for those who are challenged. Crippled? That’s just mean.

Sakata's avatar

Point taken but you have to agree that being called a “cripple” is better then being called a “fuckin’ gimp.” There’s always something worse then what people consider bad.


kitszu's avatar

I looked up the two definitons. “Copying” is an immitation of something. “Emulating” is an effort to become equal with.

I don’t see much difference in the definitions except in how they apply to mental growth. When we are young, we “ape” (imitation without thought) each other to simply learn how to interact with our environments. We are being socialized.

As teens and young adults, we are now socialized, so we choose role models to imitate. They are examples of who we want or do not want to be. (Emulation)

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