The British Journal of Psychiatry
Echopraxia in Schizophrenia
JAMES CHAPMAN, ANDREW McGHIE

Abstract

The evolution of imitative behaviour in the early stages of normal development is briefly examined, with particular attention being paid to Piaget's three levels of motor mimicry. The observations of previous workers who have studied echopractic behaviour in advanced schizophrenic patients are discussed, and a few illustrations of this type of imitative behaviour are cited from our own observations of a group of chronic schizophrenic patients. An examination of the subjective reports of young schizophrenic patients suggests that echopraxia also occurs in the early stages of a schizophrenic illness, although in a more transient and controlled form. Here echopractic tendencies in young schizophrenic patients are interpreted as resulting from the general breakdown in perceptual constancy which appears to be a feature of the early stages of the illness. Finally an attempt is made to relate the different forms of echopractic behaviour observed in schizophrenic patients to the developmental stages of imitative behaviour outlined by Piaget.