Researchers said this means babies develop the ability to predict others' actions at the same time they are learning to do the same thing.
The experiment measured eye movement of six and 12-month-old babies when they watched a person on computer screen move things from a place to a box.
The children who were six months followed the action from the item being picked up to the time it is place in the box, while 1-year-old babies began watching the hand pick up the item, but then looked to the box before the item was taken there.
“You could say that we, in our brains, have a special system of nerve cells that make us learn to understand and predict what others do as though we did it ourselves,” said Claes von Hofsten, a researcher on the study.
This function is crucial for human development and teamwork with other people.
The study was published in Nature Neuroscience on Monday.