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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Infants’ interpretation of information-seeking actions


Although infants can frequently observe others gathering information, it is an open question whether and how they make sense of such activities since the mental causes and intended effects of these are hidden and underdetermined by the available evidence. We tested the hypothesis that infants possess a naive theory that leads them to grasp the purpose of information-gathering actions when they serve as sub-goals of higher-order instrumental goals. We presented 14-month-old infants with actions that were inefficient with respect to the agent’s instrumental goal but could or could not be justified as information-seeking behavior via this theory. We expected longer looks in the condition where the detour could not be justified and the results were in line with our predictions. While this evidence is compatible with our hypothesis, further studies are in progress to rule out alternative interpretations of our findings.

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