Publications of Prinz, W.

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.