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Description: Does knowledge of other people’s minds grow from concrete experience to abstract concepts? Classic research from developmental science suggests that before infants reach for objects, they do not see others’ reaches as intentional. Here, we test an alternative hypothesis: that young infants view reaching as undertaken for a purpose, but they are open-minded about the specific goals people tend to pursue. In three experiments (n = 68), we show that 3-month-old infants, who cannot reach for objects, learn to attribute both object goals and spatial goals to other people, after seeing them reach for the same object regardless of where it is, or to the same location regardless of what is there. Thus, before infants have learned to reach and manipulate themselves, they already understand that intentional agents’ actions are motivated by enduring goals. This understanding may support infants’ rational learning about other minds. This project includes the preregistrations, stimuli, data, and analysis scripts for the present preprint.

License: CC-By Attribution 4.0 International


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Goal Attribution in 3-Month-Old Infants | Registered: 2020-09-21 13:26 UTC

Past work suggests that infants do not understand the act of reaching towards an object as being goal-directed until they have experience reaching the...

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Goal Attribution in 3-Month-Old Infants: Location Goals | Registered: 2021-05-11 13:43 UTC

This is a preregistration for a study that seeks to ask: Can 3-month-old infants represent an object's location as the goal of another person's reachi...

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