Publications of Jovanovic, B.

The role of effects for infants' perception of action goals.

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 Kiràly 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.

The early origins of goal attribution in infancy

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) ([Woodward et al., 2001]). The cue-based approach of the infant's [`]teleological stance' ( [Gergely and Csibra, 2003]), 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.