Tracking the Actions and Possessions of Agents

Topics in Cognitive Science 6 (4):599-614 (2014)
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Abstract

We propose that there is a powerful human disposition to track the actions and possessions of agents. In two experiments, 3-year-olds and adults viewed sets of objects, learned a new fact about one of the objects in each set , and were queried about either the taught fact or an unrelated dimension immediately after a spatiotemporal transformation, and after a delay. Adults uniformly tracked object identity under all conditions, whereas children tracked identity more when taught ownership versus labeling information, and only regarding the taught fact . These findings suggest that the special attention that children and adults pay to agents readily extends to include inanimate objects. That young children track an object's history, despite their reliance on surface features on many cognitive tasks, suggests that unobservable historical features are foundational in human cognition

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