The early origins of goal attribution in infancy

TitleThe early origins of goal attribution in infancy
Publication TypeJournal Article
AuthorsGergely, Gy., I. Király, B. Jovanovic, W. Prinz, and G. Aschersleben
Journal titleConsciousness and Cognition
Pages752 - 769

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.


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Department of Philosophy