Abstract

This paper argues that human infants address the challenges of optimizing, recognizing, and interpreting collaborative behaviors by assessing their collective efficiency. This hypothesis was tested by using a looking-time study. Fourteen-month-olds (N = 32) were familiarized with agents performing a collaborative action in computer animations. During the test phase, the looking times were measured while the agents acted with various efficiency parameters. In the critical condition, the agents’ actions were individually efficient, but their combination was either collectively efficient or inefficient. Infants looked longer at test events that violated expectations of collective efficiency (p = .006, d = 0.79). Thus, preverbal infants apply expectations of collective efficiency to actions involving multiple agents.