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In studies of animals' imitation abilities one tend to overlook a central aspect of imitation that is present in humans: an integration of the actions in a social and affective context, including imitation as a device for interaction rather than learning. This neglect is especially clear in studies of cross-species imitation. The PLIMI project has studied the effects of social interaction and bonding on subsequent imitation, and the pro-social effects of imitation itself. Examples of the latter is responding to imitation with returned imitation or to engage in playful interaction. The talk will present empirical findings from chimpanzees and human infants and suggest alternative views on the evolution of imitation in primates.