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Infants’ perception of goal-directed actions: A multi-lab replication reveals that infants anticipate paths and not goals

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Attig,  Manja
Leibniz Institute for Educational Trajectories (LIfBi), Bamberg, Germany;
Department Psychology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Daum,  Moritz M.
Department of Psychology, University of Zurich, Switzerland;
Neuroscience Center Zurich, University of Zurich, Switzerland;
Department Psychology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Ganglmayer, K., Attig, M., Daum, M. M., & Paulus, M. (2019). Infants’ perception of goal-directed actions: A multi-lab replication reveals that infants anticipate paths and not goals. Infant Behavior and Development, 57: 101340. doi:10.1016/j.infbeh.2019.101340.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0004-A3F2-2
Abstract
Influential developmental theories claim that infants rely on goals when visually anticipating actions. A widely noticed study suggested that 11-month-olds anticipate that a hand continues to grasp the same object even when it swapped position with another object (Cannon, E., & Woodward, A. L. (2012). Infants generate goal-based action predictions. Developmental Science, 15, 292-298.). Yet, other studies found such flexible goal-directed anticipations only from later ages on. Given the theoretical relevance of this phenomenon and given these contradicting findings, the current work investigated in two different studies and labs, whether infants indeed flexibly anticipate an action goal. Study 1 (N = 144) investigated by means of five experiments, under which circumstances (e.g., animated agent, human agent) 12-month-olds show flexible goal anticipation abilities. Study 2 (N = 104) presented 11-, 32-month-olds and adults both a human grasping action as well as a non-human action. In none of the experiments did infants flexibly anticipate the action based on the goal, but rather on the movement path, irrespective of the type of agent. Although one experiment contained a direct replication of Cannon and Woodward (2012), we were not able to replicate their findings. Overall our work challenges the view that infants are able to flexibly anticipate action goals from early on, but rather rely on movement patterns when processing other's actions.