Teleological understanding of actions

TitleTeleological understanding of actions
Publication TypeBook Chapter
AuthorsCsibra, G., and Gy. Gergely
EditorsBanaji, M. R., and S. A. Gelman
Book TitleNavigating the Social World: What Infants, Chidren, and Other Species Can Teach Us
Year2013
Pages38-43
PublisherOxford University Press
Languageenglish
DOI10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199890712.003.0008
Publisher linkhttp://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199890712.003.0008
Abstract

An observed behavior is interpreted as an action directed to a particular end state if it is judged to be the most efficient means available to the agent for achieving this goal in the given environment. When such an interpretation is established, it creates a teleological representation of the action, which is held together by the principle of efficiency. The paradigmatic situation in which the functioning of teleological interpretation can be tested is when one observes a behavior (e.g., an agent jumps into the air while moving in a certain direction) leading to an end state (e.g., the agent stops next to another object). If, and only if, the behavior (jumping) is justified by environmental factors (by the presence of a barrier over which the jumping occurs) will this behavior be interpreted as a means action to achieve the end state as the goal of the action (to get in contact with the other object). Researchers have published extensive evidence that infants from at least six months of age form this kind of teleological representations of actions. This chapter attempts to clarify commonly raised issues about this theory in a question-and-answer format.

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