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... To explain these findings, some theoretical models (named experience-based accounts by B ır o & Leslie, 2007) proposed a link between infants' ability for online goal prediction and their active experience in executing the observed action (e.g., Falck-Ytter et al., 2006;Kanakogi & Itakura, 2011). Some of these accounts highlight the relevance of the mirror-neuron system (MNS), which is active during action execution and action observation (e.g., Rizzolatti, Fadiga, Gallese, & Fogassi, 1996), and which can enable goal prediction via direct matching of the observed action features to a corresponding motor representation (e.g., Falck-Ytter et al., 2006;Gredeb€ ack & Falck-Ytter, 2015;Gredeb€ ack et al., 2018;Kanakogi & Itakura, 2011;Rizzolatti, Fogassi, & Gallese, 2001). ...
... The impact of agency cues: Self-propelledness, equifinality, salient action effects Experience-based accounts claim that infants can predict action goals only for familiar actions and familiar (i.e., human) agents (e.g., Falck-Ytter et al., 2006). However, cue-based accounts suppose that certain features of the agent or its behavior are particularly important for infants' action-goal prediction (e.g., B ır o & Leslie, 2007;Gergely, N adasdy, Csibra, & B ır o, 1995;Leslie, 1995). Human hands display such agency cues, like the ability for selfpropelled movement through an internal energy source, allowing for autonomous starts from rest or for varying movement trajectory or speed (e.g., Baron-Cohen, 1994;Premack, 1990). ...
... Human hands display such agency cues, like the ability for selfpropelled movement through an internal energy source, allowing for autonomous starts from rest or for varying movement trajectory or speed (e.g., Baron-Cohen, 1994;Premack, 1990). Other agency cues are adaptive behavior to situational constraints by equifinal goal approaches (e.g., B ır o & Leslie, 2007;Csibra & Gergely, 1998), or producing salient action effects, which indicates goal-or intention-driven behavior (e.g., Elsner, 2007;Uithol & Paulus, 2014). According to cue-based accounts, infants can predict action goals also for unfamiliar non-human agents when these display agency cues. ...
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Looking times and gaze behavior indicate that infants can predict the goal state of an observed simple action event (e.g., object-directed grasping) already in the first year of life. The present paper mainly focuses on infants' predictive gaze-shifts toward the goal of an ongoing action. For this, infants need to generate a forward model of the to-be-obtained goal state and to disengage their gaze from the moving agent at a time when information about the action event is still incomplete. By about 6 months of age, infants show goal-predictive gaze-shifts, but mainly for familiar actions that they can perform themselves (e.g., grasping) and for familiar agents (e.g., a human hand). Therefore, some theoretical models have highlighted close relations between infants' ability for action-goal prediction and their motor development and/or emerging action experience. Recent research indicates that infants can also predict action goals of familiar simple actions performed by non-human agents (e.g., object-directed grasping by a mechanical claw) when these agents display agency cues, such as self-propelled movement, equifinality of goal approach, or production of a salient action effect. This paper provides a review on relevant findings and theoretical models, and proposes that the impacts of action experience and of agency cues can be explained from an action-event perspective. In particular, infants' goal-predictive gaze-shifts are seen as resulting from an Correspondence should be sent to Birgit Elsner, This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License, which permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non-commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made. interplay between bottom-up processing of perceptual information and top-down influences exerted by event schemata that store information about previously executed or observed actions.
... The production of a salient action effect is important for adults' and infants' planning of own actions as well as for their observation of others' actions (e.g., Elsner, 2007;Eshuis, Coventry, & Vulchanova, 2009;Paulus, 2012), and various theoretical accounts see this agency cue as a precondition for the interpretation of unfamiliar actions as goal-directed (e.g., Bíró, Verschoor, Coalter, & Leslie, 2014;Elsner, 2007;Gergely & Csibra, 2003;Király, Jovanovic, Prinz, Aschersleben, & Gergely, 2003;Meltzoff, 2002;Paulus, 2012). For example, ideomotor approaches assume that when infants repeatedly produce or observe a movement that results in an action effect, a cognitive action-effect representation will eventually be formed (e.g., Elsner & Hommel, 2001;James, 1890). ...
... Thus, according to the ideomotor approach, actions are primarily represented by their elicited the action effects, and not by their movement kinematics (Prinz, 1997). Support for this notion comes from looking-time studies showing that infants attribute a goal to an unfamiliar human manual action when it produces a salient effect, but not when the same movement is presented without an action effect (Bíró et al., 2014;Jovanovic et al., 2007). Likewise, adults' action-goal predictions for observed human and non-human actions (measured by eye tracking) are highly dependent on the presence of a salient action effect (Eshuis et al., 2009). ...
... M. Adam, B. Elsner Infant Behavior and Development 53 (2018) 49-55 (e.g., Bíró et al., 2014;Jovanovic et al., 2007), infants' imitation of actions that did vs. did not produce salient effects (e.g., Elsner & Aschersleben, 2003;Hauf, Elsner, & Aschersleben, 2004), and also in adults' action-goal predictions (Eshuis et al., 2009). By extending this research to a non-human agent, our results also provide evidence for the idea that the production of a salient action effect is especially important for infants to interpret an unfamiliar action as goal-directed (Bíró et al., 2014;Elsner, 2007;Gergely & Csibra, 2003;Király et al., 2003;Meltzoff, 2002), and suggest that action-effect associations can be acquired not only for self-performed and for observed human actions, but also for non-human actions (Elsner & Hommel, 2001;Paulus, 2012). ...
Article
Action effects have been stated to be important for infants’ processing of goal-directed actions. In this study, 11-month-olds showed equally fast predictive gaze shifts to a claw’s action goal when the grasping action was presented either with three agency cues (self-propelled movement, equifinality of goal achievement and a salient action effect) or with only a salient action effect, but infants showed tracking gaze when the claw showed only self-propelled movement and equifinality of goal achievement. The results suggest that action effects, compared to purely kinematic cues, seem to be especially important for infants' online processing of goal-directed actions.
... When we consider only younger infants' limited cognitive abilities, it seems paradox that adding various agency cues, which definitely increases cognitive load during action observation, supports (rather than hinders) younger infants' action-goal prediction. However, the beneficial influence results only when this additional bottom-up information can be combined with stored knowledge about a familiar action, confirming the assumed interplay between bottom-up and top-down processes in infant action-goal prediction [12,27]. Additionally, our analyses ruled out an alternative explanation for the 7-month-olds' tracking gaze in the claw-action-effect condition. ...
... Taken together, our results suggest that first, agency cues such as a salient action effect play an important role for 7-month-olds', but not 6-or 11-month-olds', goal predictions when observing human goal-directed grasping actions. Second, the 7-month-olds' ability to draw on the action effect for goal prediction does not seem to rely on the infants' comparatively advanced cognitive abilities, because the impact of the action effect found in Experiment 2 did not generalize to the same action carried out by a mechanical claw in Experiment 3. Thus, our results provide first evidence for an interplay between top-down action knowledge and the need to draw on agency cues as bottom-up information in order for infants to successfully predict the goal or end state of an ongoing simple goal-directed action [8,11,12,27]. Future studies could build on these findings and further investigate how infants' need to draw on agency cues during action observation interacts with their action knowledge. For example, the 7-montholds in Experiment 2 showed strikingly similar gaze behavior when observing a human hand compared to the gaze behavior of 11-month-olds when observing similar actions of a mechanical claw [17,18]. ...
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When infants observe a human grasping action, experience-based accounts predict that all infants familiar with grasping actions should be able to predict the goal regardless of additional agency cues such as an action effect. Cue-based accounts, however, suggest that infants use agency cues to identify and predict action goals when the action or the agent is not familiar. From these accounts, we hypothesized that younger infants would need additional agency cues such as a salient action effect to predict the goal of a human grasping action, whereas older infants should be able to predict the goal regardless of agency cues. In three experiments, we presented 6-, 7-, and 11-month-olds with videos of a manual grasping action presented either with or without an additional salient action effect (Exp. 1 and 2), or we presented 7-month-olds with videos of a mechanical claw performing a grasping action presented with a salient action effect (Exp. 3). The 6-month-olds showed tracking gaze behavior, and the 11-month-olds showed predictive gaze behavior, regardless of the action effect. However, the 7-month-olds showed predictive gaze behavior in the action-effect condition, but tracking gaze behavior in the no-action-effect condition and in the action-effect condition with a mechanical claw. The results therefore support the idea that salient action effects are especially important for infants' goal predictions from 7 months on, and that this facilitating influence of action effects is selective for the observation of human hands.
... In line with this analysis, 9-month-olds failed at a preference task in which an agent placed the back of her hand against object-A in the familiarization trials, instead of grasping it; because infants could not infer the goal of this baffling back-of-hand action, they looked equally at the new-and old-object events (Woodward, 1999). Several investigations have taken advantage of this negative result to examine what experiences might lead infants to view the back-of-hand action as goal-directed (e.g., Bíró et al. 2014;Király et al. 2003; for similar investigations with other novel actions, e.g., Gerson & Woodward 2012. In one experiment, for example, an experimenter and 12-month-olds first took turns lifting Velcrocovered blocks using a Velcro band worn on the back of their hands (Bíró et al. 2014). ...
... Several investigations have taken advantage of this negative result to examine what experiences might lead infants to view the back-of-hand action as goal-directed (e.g., Bíró et al. 2014;Király et al. 2003; for similar investigations with other novel actions, e.g., Gerson & Woodward 2012. In one experiment, for example, an experimenter and 12-month-olds first took turns lifting Velcrocovered blocks using a Velcro band worn on the back of their hands (Bíró et al. 2014). After this training session, infants received a preference task in which an agent wearing a similar Velcro band produced back-of-hand actions, without lifting the objects. ...
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Adults routinely make sense of others' actions by inferring the mental states that underlie these actions. Over the past two decades, developmental researchers have made significant advances in understanding the origins of this ability in infancy. This evidence indicates that when infants observe an agent act in a simple scene, they infer the agent's mental states and then use these mental states, together with a principle of rationality (and its corollaries of efficiency and consistency), to predict and interpret the agent's subsequent actions and to guide their own actions toward the agent. In this review, we first describe the initial demonstrations of infants' sensitivity to the efficiency and consistency principles. We then examine how infants identify novel entities as agents. Next, we summarize what is known about infants' ability to reason about agents' motivational, epistemic, and counterfactual states. Finally, we consider alternative interpretations of these findings and discuss the current controversy about the relation between implicit and explicit psychological reasoning. Expected final online publication date for the Annual Review of Psychology Volume 67 is January 03, 2016. Please see http://www.annualreviews.org/catalog/pubdates.aspx for revised estimates.
... Remarkably, infants showed goal-predictive gaze shifts not only when the claw showed all three agency cues but also when the claw just grasped the toy and lifted it, therefore displaying only one agency cue, that is, the salient action effect of lifting the toy, which was additionally marked by a sound. This suggests that the action effect was especially important for the infants to predict the observed agent's goal (see Bíró et al., 2014, for similar findings regarding the importance of action effects). In another condition, the claw just grasped the toy and then froze in place. ...
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During the observation of goal-directed actions, infants usually predict the goal at an earlier age when the agent is familiar (e.g., human hand) compared to unfamiliar (e.g., mechanical claw). These findings implicate a crucial role of the developing agentive self for infants' processing of others' action goals. Recent theoretical accounts suggest that predictive gaze behavior relies on an interplay between infants' agentive experience (top-down processes) and perceptual information about the agent and the action-event (bottom-up information; e.g., agency cues). The present study examined 7-, 11-, and 18-month-old infants' predictive gaze behavior for a grasping action performed by an unfamiliar tool, depending on infants' age-related action knowledge about tool-use and the display of the agency cue of producing a salient action effect. The results are in line with the notion of a systematic interplay between experience-based top-down processes and cue-based bottom-up information: Regardless of the salient action effect, predictive gaze shifts did not occur in the 7-month-olds (least experienced age group), but did occur in the 18-month-olds (most experienced age group). In the 11-month-olds, however, predictive gaze shifts occurred only when a salient action effect was presented. This sheds new light on how the developing agentive self, in interplay with available agency cues, supports infants' action-goal prediction also for observed tool-use actions.
... Remarkably, infants showed goal-predictive gaze shifts both when the claw showed all three agency cues, and when the claw just grasped the toy and lifted it up, therefore displaying only one agency cue, that is, producing a salient action effect. This suggests that the action effect was especially important for the infants to predict the agent's goal (see Bíró, Verschoor, Coalter, & Leslie, 2014, for similar findings regarding the importance of action effects). In another condition, the claw just grasped the toy and then froze in place. ...
Preprint
During the observation of goal-directed actions, infants usually predict the goal when the action and the agent are familiar, but they do not as easily predict the goal when the action or the agent are unfamiliar. Recent theoretical accounts suggest that predictive gaze behavior relies on a complex interplay between bottom-up- (e.g., agency cues) and top- down information (e.g., prior experience with the action), depending on an observer’ prior knowledge about the unfolding action event. Based on these accounts, we hypothesized that during the observation of grasping actions performed by a mechanical claw, younger infants would need agency cues to show predictive gaze behavior, whereas older infants would be able to show predictive gaze behavior regardless of agency cues. Therefore, we presented 7-, 11-, and 18-month-old infants with videos of a mechanical claw that repeatedly approached and grasped a goal object and then either did or did not produce a salient action effect. The 7-month-olds were not predictive regardless of the salient action effect, the 11-month-olds were only predictive when the salient action effect was presented, and the 18-month-olds were predictive regardless of the salient action effect. These results therefore support the idea of a complex interplay between bottom-up and top-down information as a crucial factor for the production of predictive gaze behavior during the observation of goal-directed actions performed by mechanical agents.
... In previous sections, we noted that when an infant views non-functional back-of-hand action toward an object, they show different neural response than to grasping actions and also do not show changes in looking time when the target of the action is changed (Woodward, 1999;Southgate et al., 2010). However, when this back-of-hand action is presented along with a salient action effect, such as moving the object contacted, infants become sensitive to later changes in the target of the action (Király et al., 2003;Biro et al., 2014). ...
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Recognizing that the object-directed actions of others are governed by goals and intentions is a crucial component of human interaction. These actions often occur rapidly and without explanation, yet we learn from and predict the actions of others with remarkable speed and accuracy, even during the first year of life. This review paper will serve as a bridge between several disparate literatures that, we suggest, can each contribute to our understanding of how infants interpret action. Specifically, we provide a review not just of research on infant goal attribution per se, but also incorporate findings from studies on the mirror neuron system and infant object cognition. The integration of these various research approaches allows for a novel construal of the extents and limits of early goal attribution -- one in which the importance of the entire action context is considered -- and points to specific future research directions.
... Monitoring measures, such as fixation duration at a given location, can indicate (cognitive) saliency of a region (Henderson et al. 2007) and the processing load required to retrospectively or prospectively interpret a specific aspect of a scenario (Klein et al. 2009;Zwickel et al. 2010). Monitoring can be affected by previous knowledge and expectations (Hayhoe et al. 2003;Biro et al. 2014a;Biro et al. 2014b) and also by perceptual properties of the observed scenario (Tellinghuisen et al. 1999;Parkhurst et al. 2002). Using eye-tracking methodology with infants, monitoring measures have for example been found to be sensitive indicators of the familiarity or the threat-relatedness of facial expressions (Peltola et al. 2009;Hunnius et al. 2011;Gredeb€ ack et al. 2012). ...
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imitation;social cognition;empathy;theory of mind;representation of action
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review the current status of what is known about infant learning and the research that has been conducted on this topic since the publication of the 1979 edition of this handbook habituation / classical conditioning / instrumental learning / complex learning and concept formation / relation between learning and memory (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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Deferred imitation after a 1-week delay was examined in 14-month-old infants. Six actions, each using a different object, were demonstrated to each infant. One of the six actions was a novel behavior that had a zero probability of occurrence in spontaneous play. In the imitation condition, infants observed the demonstration but were not allowed to touch the objects, thus preventing any immediate imitation. After the 1-week delay, infants returned to the laboratory and their imitation of the adult's previous actions was scored. Infants in the imitation condition produced significantly more of the target actions than infants in control groups who were not exposed to the modeling; there was also strong evidence for the imitation of the novel act. From a cognitive perspective deferred imitation provides a means of assessing recall memory and representation in children. From a social-developmental viewpoint the findings illustrate that the behavioral repertoire of infants and their knowledge about objects can expand as a result of seeing the actions of others. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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Current work has yielded differential findings regarding infants' ability to perceptually detect the causal structure of a means–end support sequence. Resolving this debate has important implications for perception–action dissociations in this domain of object knowledge. In Study 1, 12-month-old infants' ability to perceive the causal structure of a cloth-pulling sequence was assessed via a habituation paradigm. After seeing an event in which a supported toy was moved by pulling a cloth that it sat on, 12-month-old infants demonstrated longer looking to events that violated the causal structure of this sequence than to events that preserved the causal structure but varied other perceptual features of the event. Studies 2 and 3 investigated 10-month-olds' interpretations of means–end support sequences using both a habituation paradigm and a task that assessed infants' own means–end actions. Whereas 10-month-olds failed to demonstrate an understanding of the causal structure when tested using a flat cloth as the support (Study 2), sensitivity to this structure was apparent when a rectangular box was the support. These patterns were evident in both action and perception (Study 3). Moreover, individual variation in action task performance was related to visual habituation performance. The results are discussed with respect to the relation between action and perception in infancy.
Article
The present work investigated whether by the end of the first year, infants interpret actions performed by a mechanical device as goal-directed and why they would do so. Using a modified version of the Woodward (1998) habituation paradigm, 9- and 12-month-old infants were tested in a condition in which they saw a mechanical claw performing an action (Study 1). When infants viewed the claw grasping and transporting objects to the back of a stage, 12-month-old but not 9-month-old infants interpreted the action as goal-directed. In Study 2, 9-month-olds received prior to habituation an information phase showing infants how a human held and operated the claw. This enrichment of infants’ knowledge enabled 9-month-old infants to interpret the action display as goal-directed. The role of the developing means-end understanding and tool-use for infants’ interpretation of actions performed by a mechanical device is discussed.
Article
Infants’ early object contact was enriched by giving a group of pre-reaching infants experience with prehension earlier than they would normally acquire it. These infants received 10–14 10-min play sessions wearing “sticky mittens”: mittens with palms that stuck to the edges of toys and allowed the infants to pick up the toys. After these enrichment sessions, the experienced infants’ object engagement and object exploration skills were compared to those of infants who were the same age as the experienced infants but had not received the play sessions. The results showed that the experienced infants showed more object engagement via a number of measures, and showed more sophisticated object exploration strategies compared to their inexperienced peers. The results suggest that the early simulated experience reaching for objects serves to jump-start the process of object engagement in young infants.
Article
The ability to construe ourselves and others as agents with minds having mental states such as perceptions, attention, desires and beliefs, is critical to humans’ social, linguistic, and cognitive competence. When and how this ability becomes available to us during development is therefore of particular theoretical importance. Historically, most work in this area has concentrated on the ability of three- and four-year-olds to predict and explain behaviors based on false beliefs. With recent advances in the methods available for studying cognition in pre-verbal infants however, more research is now focused on earlier age groups. In this review, arguments are presented for and against the presence of a rudimentary ‘theory of mind’ in infancy, with evidence discussed from three sources: (1) infants’ active interactions with people; (2) infants’ passive observations of people; and (3) infants’ interactions with, and observations, of non-human agents.
Article
Three habituation experiments examined the perception of causal and non-causal events by infants at 6 1/4, 5 1/2, and 4 months of age. Experiment 1 replicated previous studies showing that by 6 1/4 months, infants begin to respond to the interaction of simple objects in Michottian type launching events on the basis of causality. In Experiments 2 and 3, however, younger infants exposed to the identical event sequences responded on the basis of simpler perceptual features of the launching events, and not on the basis of causality. 4-month-old infants responded to continuous versus non-continuous movement. 5 1/2-month-old infants also responded somewhat on the basis of continuous movement. However, in addition they responded on the basis of the spatial and temporal perceptual features of the events. This change in the pattern of results over age suggests a multi-step developmental progression.
Article
Prior studies and have found that infants focus on the goals of an action over other details. The current studies tested whether infants would distinguish between a behavior that seemed to be goal-directed and one that seemed not to be. Infants in one condition saw an actor grasp one of two toys that sat side by side on a stage. Infants in the other condition saw the actor drop her hand onto one of the toys in a manner that looked unintentional. Once infants had been habituated to these events, they were shown test events in which either the path of motion or the object that was touched had changed. Nine-month-olds differentiated between these two actions. When they saw the actor grasp the toy, they looked longer on trials with a change in goal object than on trials with a change in path. When they saw the actor drop her hand onto the toy, they looked equally at the two test events. These findings did not result from infants being more interested in grasping as compared to inert hands. In a second study, 5-month-old infants showed patterns similar to those seen in 9-month-olds. These findings have implications for theories of the development of the concept of intention. They argue against the claim that infants are innately predisposed to interpret any motion of an animate agent as intentional.
Article
After 4 decades of research on infant behavior and development, the time has come to shift our focus from What infants do to Why they do it when they do—to move beyond the single-minded search for mechanism and to consider the larger question of function. Infants are not merely incomplete adults who simply get better with age, but they are different organisms altogether, perfectly adapted at every point in ontogeny. For this reason, answers to the Why question will necessarily build upon an evolutionary framework that reflects the infant's changing “occupations” or ecological niches. Through this pursuit, infancy researchers will develop a more integrative science and a greater sense of community.
Article
Two experiments investigated whether infants represent goal-directed actions of others in a way that allows them to draw inferences to unobserved states of affairs (such as unseen goal states or occluded obstacles). We measured looking times to assess violation of infants’ expectations upon perceiving either a change in the actions of computer-animated figures or in the context of such actions. The first experiment tested whether infants would attribute a goal to an action that they had not seen completed. The second experiment tested whether infants would infer from an observed action the presence of an occluded object that functions as an obstacle. The looking time patterns of 12-month-olds indicated that they were able to make both types of inferences, while 9-month-olds failed in both tasks. These results demonstrate that, by the end of the first year of life, infants use the principle of rational action not only for the interpretation and prediction of goal-directed actions, but also for making productive inferences about unseen aspects of their context. We discuss the underlying mechanisms that may be involved in the developmental change from 9 to 12 months of age in the ability to infer hypothetical (unseen) states of affairs in teleological action representations.
Article
Understanding the intentional relations in others' actions is critical to human social life. Origins of this knowledge exist in the first year and are a function of both acting as an intentional agent and observing movement cues in actions. We explore a new mechanism we believe plays an important role in infants' understanding of new actions: comparison. We examine how the opportunity to compare a familiar action with a novel, tool use action helps 7- and 10-month-old infants extract and imitate the goal of a tool use action. Infants given the chance to compare their own reach for a toy with an experimenter's reach using a claw later imitated the goal of an experimenter's tool use action. Infants who engaged with the claw, were familiarized with the claw's causal properties, or learned the associations between claw and toys (but did not align their reaches with the claw's) did not imitate. Further, active participation in the familiar action to be compared was more beneficial than observing a familiar and novel action aligned for 10-month-olds. Infants' ability to extract the goal-relation of a novel action through comparison with a familiar action could have a broad impact on the development of action knowledge and social learning more generally.
Article
We investigated whether infants can transfer their goal attribution between situations that contain different types of information about the goal. We found that 12-month-olds who had attributed a goal based on the causal efficacy of a means-end action generated expectations about the actor's action in another scenario in which the actor could choose between alternative outcomes. This finding suggests that, by 12 months, infants possess a unitary concept of goal.
Article
Recent studies have demonstrated that 6-month-olds perceive manual actions as object-directed (Woodward, 1999)--and that 8-, but not 6-month-olds, apply this interpretation even to unfamiliar actions if these produce salient object-directed effects (Kiràly, Jovanovic, Prinz, Aschersleben, & Gergely, 2003). The present study had two objectives. First, we tested the alternative interpretation that action effects result in a general increase of attention by testing infants with an analogous paradigm, including however a non-human agent. Second, we investigated in how far the negative findings for the 6-month-olds reported in the study by Kiraly et al. (2003) might be due to the familiarity of the action or the discriminability of the objects involved. The results indicate that adding effects to both a familiar and an unfamiliar action leads even 6-month-olds to interpret the respective action as object-directed, given that the objects are well discriminable. However, infants do not apply such an interpretation to actions of a non-human agent.
Article
For adults, prior information about an individual's likely goals, preferences or dispositions plays a powerful role in interpreting ambiguous behavior and predicting and interpreting behavior in novel contexts. Across two studies, we investigated whether 10-month-old infants' ability to identify the goal of an ambiguous action sequence was facilitated by seeing prior instances in which the actor directly pursued and obtained her goal, and whether infants could use this prior information to understand the actor's behavior in a new context. Experiment 1 demonstrated that the goal preview impacted infants' subsequent action understanding, but only if the preview was delivered in the same room as the subsequent action sequence. Experiment 2 demonstrated that infants' failure to transfer prior goal information across situations arose from a change in the room per se and not other features of the task. Our results suggest that infants may use their understanding of simple actions as a leverage point for understanding novel or ambiguous actions, but that their ability to do so is limited to certain types of contextual changes.
Article
The problem of the origins of the perception of causality in infancy has received relatively little attention in the literature despite its obvious importance. Two experiments with infants 4 1/2 and 8 months old are reported which seek to investigate sensitivity to spatiotemporal continuity in simple causal events with a differential dishabituation-of-looking technique. In the first experiment inanimate events of the familiar 'billiard-ball launching' type were used, while in the second animate events involving a hand/object pick-up were presented. The results suggest that both age groups of infants were sensitive to certain changes in spatiotemporal continuity in both types of event, although in the case of the inanimate stimuli the younger infants reacted less positively. It is suggested that infants in the first year of life are sensitive to certain spatiotemporal event configurations and that this sensitivity could be regarded as at least a required component of a perception of causality.
Article
This paper reports a habituation study indicating that 12-month-old infants can take the "intentional stance" in interpreting the goal-directed spatial behavior of a rational agent. First, we examine previous empirical claims suggesting that the ability to attribute intentions to others emerges during the second half of the first year. It is argued that neither the perceptual evidence (concerning the early ability to discriminate agents), nor the behavioral data (indicating the use of communicative gestures for instrumental purposes) are sufficient to support such claims about the early appearance of a theory of mind, as there are alternative explanations for these phenomena in terms of simpler psychological processes. It is then suggested that to show that an infant indeed attributes an intention to interpret the goal-directed behavior of a rational agent, one needs to demonstrate that the baby can generate an expectation about the most rational future means action that the agent will perform in a new situation to achieve its goal. We then describe a visual habituation study that meets this requirement. The results demonstrate that based on the equifinal structure of an agent's spatial behavior, 12-month-old infants can identify the agent's goal and interpret its actions causally in relation to it. Furthermore, our study indicates that infants of this age are able to evaluate the rationality of the agent's goal-directed actions, which is a necessary requirement for applying the intentional stance. In closing, we discuss some of the theoretical and methodological implications of our study.
Article
Research with young children has shown that, like adults, they focus selectively on the aspects of an actor's behavior that are relevant to his or her underlying intentions. The current studies used the visual habituation paradigm to ask whether infants would similarly attend to those aspects of an action that are related to the actor's goals. Infants saw an actor reach for and grasp one of two toys sitting side by side on a curtained stage. After habituation, the positions of the toys were switched and babies saw test events in which there was a change in either the path of motion taken by the actor's arm or the object that was grasped by the actor. In the first study, 9-month-old infants looked longer when the actor grasped a new toy than when she moved through a new path. Nine-month-olds who saw an inanimate object of approximately the same dimensions as the actor's arm touch the toy did not show this pattern in test. In the second study, 5-month-old infants showed similar, though weaker, patterns. A third study provided evidence that the findings for the events involving a person were not due to perceptual changes in the objects caused by occlusion by the hand. A fourth study replicated the 9 month results for a human grasp at 6 months, and revealed that these effects did not emerge when infants saw an inanimate object with digits that moved to grasp the toy. Taken together, these findings indicate that young infants distinguish in their reasoning about human action and object motion, and that by 6 months infants encode the actions of other people in ways that are consistent with more mature understandings of goal-directed action.
Article
Converging evidence demonstrates that one-year-olds interpret and draw inferences about other's goal-directed actions. We contrast alternative theories about how this early competence relates to our ability to attribute mental states to others. We propose that one-year-olds apply a non-mentalistic interpretational system, the 'teleological stance' to represent actions by relating relevant aspects of reality (action, goal-state and situational constraints) through the principle of rational action, which assumes that actions function to realize goal-states by the most efficient means available. We argue that this early inferential principle is identical to the rationality principle of the mentalistic stance - a representational system that develops later to guide inferences about mental states.
Article
We contrast two positions concerning the initial domain of actions that infants interpret as goal-directed. The 'narrow scope' view holds that goal-attribution in 6- and 9-month-olds is restricted to highly familiar actions (such as grasping). The cue-based approach of the infant's 'teleological stance', however, predicts that if the cues of equifinal variation of action and a salient action effect are present, young infants can attribute goals to a 'wide scope' of entities including unfamiliar human actions and actions of novel objects lacking human features. It is argued that previous failures to show goal-attribution to unfamiliar actions were due to the absence of these cues. We report a modified replication of Woodward (1999) showing that when a salient action-effect is presented, even young infants can attribute a goal to an unfamiliar manual action. This study together with other recent experiments reviewed support the 'wide scope' approach indicating that if the cues of goal-directedness are present even 6-month-olds attribute goals to unfamiliar actions.
Article
The present study investigated whether infants learn the effects of other persons' actions like they do for their own actions, and whether infants transfer observed action-effect relations to their own actions. Nine-, 12-, 15- and 18-month-olds explored an object that allowed two actions, and that produced a certain salient effect after each action. In a self-exploration group, infants explored the object directly, whereas in two observation groups, infants first watched an adult model acting on the object and obtaining a certain effect with each action before exploring the objects by themselves. In one observation group, the infants' actions were followed by the same effects as the model's actions, but in the other group, the action-effect mapping for the infant was reversed to that of the model. The results showed that the observation of the model had an impact on the infants' exploration behavior from 12 months, but not earlier, and that the specific relations between observed actions and effects were acquired by 15 months. Thus, around their first birthday infants learn the effects of other persons' actions by observation, and they transfer the observed action-effect relations to their own actions in the second year of life.
Article
Fourteen-month-old infants saw an object hidden inside a container and were removed from the disappearance locale for 24 hr. Upon their return, they searched correctly for the hidden object, demonstrating object permanence and long-term memory. Control infants who saw no disappearance did not search. In Experiment 2, infants returned to see the container either in the same or a different room. Performance by room-change infants dropped to baseline levels, suggesting that infant search for hidden objects is guided by numerical identity. Infants seek the individual object that disappeared, which exists in its original location, not in a different room. A new behavior, identity-verifying search, was discovered and quantified. Implications are drawn for memory, spatial understanding, object permanence, and object identity.
Article
How do infants identify the psychological actors in their environments? Three groups of 12-month-old infants were tested for their willingness to encode a simple approach behavior as goal-directed as a function of whether it was performed by (1) a human hand, (2) a morphologically unfamiliar green object that interacted with a confederate and behaved intentionally, or (3) the same unfamiliar green object that behaved in a matched, but apparently random manner. Using a visual habituation technique, only infants in the first two conditions were found to encode the approach behavior as goal-directed Thus infants appear able to attribute goals to non-human, even unfamiliar agents. These results imply that by the end of the first year of life infants have a broad notion of what counts as an agent that cannot easily be reduced to humans, objects that are perceptually similar to humans, or objects that display self-propulsion.
Article
Adults and children readily construct action representations organized with respect to an ultimate goal. These representations allow one to predict the consequences of action, interpret and describe actions, and categorize action sequences. In this paper, we explore the ontogeny of hierarchically organized action representations, and its relation to infants' ability to produce similar sequences. To do so, we examine infants' perception and performance of a means-end sequence: pulling a cloth to retrieve a toy. Using a visual habituation paradigm, we demonstrate that 12-month-old infants understand that the initial step of the cloth-pulling sequence is directed toward the ultimate goal of attaining the toy, and use their knowledge of the causal constraints of the sequence to make this goal attribution. Ten-month-olds, however, appear transitional with respect to this understanding: their ability to identify the goal of the cloth-pulling sequence is related to their own ability to planfully solve a similar sequence. These findings are consistent with a burgeoning body of literature suggesting an intimate link between action production and perception, and suggest that this link is in place by at least 10 months of age.
Article
This paper reviews studies on infants' imitation of goal-directed actions in the first two years of life. Special emphasis is given to the role of the two observable components of an action, that is, the movement and the action effects, on infants' replication of target actions. The reviewed studies provide evidence that infants benefit most from a full demonstration of both movements and effects. If movements are demonstrated in isolation, infants may encode this information, but they preferentially reproduce actions that lead to salient effects. If action effects are presented in isolation, infants younger than 19 months usually fail to emulate the unseen movements that would be necessary to produce these effects. Infants' ability to predict action effects or to infer unseen movements from incomplete demonstrations improves substantially at the end of the second year of life. It is concluded that the capability to learn relations between movements and action effects by observation, and the knowledge about movement-effect relations acquired so far, may be important factors underlying the developmental changes in infants' imitation of goal-directed actions.
Article
It is now widely accepted that sensitivity to goal-directed actions emerges during the first year of life. However, controversy still surrounds the question of how this sensitivity emerges and develops. One set of views emphasizes the role of observing behavioral cues, while another emphasizes the role of experience with producing own action. In a series of four experiments we contrast these two views. In Experiment 1, it was shown that infants as young as 6 months old can interpret an unfamiliar human action as goal-directed when the action involves equifinal variations. Experiments 2 and 3 demonstrated that 12- and 9-month-olds are also able to attribute goals to an inanimate action if it displays behavioral cues such as self-propelledness and an action-effect. In Experiment 4, we found that even 6-months-olds can encode the goal object of an inanimate action if all three cues, equifinality, self-propelledness and an action-effect, were present. These findings suggest that the ability to ascribe goal-directedness does not necessarily emerge from hands-on experience with particular actions and that it is independent from the specific appearance of the actor as long as sufficient behavioral cues are available. We propose a cue-based bootstrapping model in which an initial sensitivity to behavioral cues leads to learning about further cues. The further cues in turn inform about different kinds of goal-directed agents and about different types of actions. By uniting an innate base with a learning process, cue-based bootstrapping can help reconcile divergent views on the emergence of infants' ability to understand actions as goal-directed.
Article
Looking-time studies examined whether 11-month-old infants can individuate two pairs of objects using only shape information. In order to test individuation, the object pairs were presented sequentially. Infants were familiarized either with the sequential pairs, disk-triangle/disk-triangle (XY/XY), whose shapes differed within but not across pairs, or with the sequential pairs, disk-disk/triangle-triangle (XX/YY), whose shapes differed across but not within pairs. The XY/XY presentation looked to adults like a single pair of objects presented repeatedly, whereas the XX/YY presentation looked like different pairs of objects. Following familiarization to these displays, infants were given a series of test trials in which the screen was removed, revealing two pairs of objects in one of two outcomes, XYXY or XXYY. On the first test trial, infants familiarized with the identical pairs (XY/XY) apparently expected a single pair to be revealed because they looked longer than infants familiarized with the distinct pairs (XX/YY). Infants who had seen the distinct pairs apparently expected a double pair outcome. A second experiment showed outcomes of a single XY pair. This outcome is unexpected for XX/YY-familiarized infants but expected for XY/XY-familiarized infants, the reverse of Experiment 1. This time looking times were longer for XX/YY infants. Eleven-month-olds appear to be able to represent not just individual objects but also pairs of objects. These results suggest that if they can group the objects into sets, infants may be able to track more objects than their numerosity limit or available working memory slots would normally allow. We suggest possible small exact numerosity representations that would allow tracking of such sets.
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Familiar actions trump action-effect in goal detection in the first year
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