Infants' Understanding of Others' Behaviors: Do Infants Tie Goals to Individuals?
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During the first year of life, infants understand others' simple actions as goal directed, that is, as directed toward particular objects in the world. However, to date, the exact nature of infants' understanding of goals is unknown. As adults, we often see goals as not just outcomes that reliably occur with particular actions, but as being tied to individuals and personal characteristics of individuals. Using a visual habituation paradigm, two experiments examined whether infants are able to understand that others' goal-directed actions are tied to individual identity rather than superficial properties of individuals, such as the particular shirt an actor is wearing. In both Experiments, 10- and 8-month-old infants were assigned to either the switch actor or the switch shirt condition. During the habituation trials, one actor wearing a yellow shirt (Actor A) and another actor wearing a blue shirt (Actor B) were positioned side-by-side in front of a stage supporting two objects. Actor A repeatedly reached for and grasped one of the two objects while Actor B, positioned next to Actor A, looked down. Following habituation, the locations of the objects were reversed. On the test trials, the actor alternated between pursuing her prior goal object (in a new location; target toy event) and pursuing a new-goal object (non-target toy event). In the switch actor condition, Actor B performed the test trials wearing the same shirt that actor A had worn on habituation trials. In contrast, in the switch shirt condition, Actor A performed the test trials wearing the shirt that Actor B had worn during habituation trials. The results show that 10-month-olds, but not 8-month-old infants, generalize goals across a change in physical appearance that is not central to personal identity. However, they do not generalize goals across individuals. These results suggest that by at least 10 months of age, infants appear to understand goals as tied to the individual identity. The findings are discussed in terms of infants' understanding of goal-directed action.
- Psychology