Primacy of Information About Means Selection Over Outcome Selection in Goal Attribution by Infants

Cognitive Science 36 (4):714-725 (2012)
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Abstract

It has been shown that, when observing an action, infants can rely on either outcome selection information (i.e., actions that express a choice between potential outcomes) or means selection information (i.e., actions that are causally efficient toward the outcome) in their goal attribution. However, no research has investigated the relationship between these two types of information when they are present simultaneously. In an experiment that addressed this question directly, we found that when outcome selection information could disambiguate the goal of the action (e.g., the action is directed toward one of two potential targets), but means selection information could not (i.e., the action is not efficiently adjusted to the situational constraints), 7- and 9-month-old infants did not attribute a goal to an observed action. This finding suggests that means selection information takes primacy over outcome selection information. The early presence of this bias sheds light on the nature of the notion of goal in action understanding

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