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Infants' goal anticipation during failed and successful reaching actions

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Abstract

The ability to interpret and predict the actions of others is crucial to social interaction and to social, cognitive, and linguistic development. The current study provided a strong test of this predictive ability by assessing (1) whether infants are capable of prospectively processing actions that fail to achieve their intended outcome, and (2) how infants respond to events in which their initial predictions are not confirmed. Using eye tracking, 8-month-olds, 10-month-olds, and adults watched an actor repeatedly reach over a barrier to either successfully or unsuccessfully retrieve a ball. Ten-month-olds and adults produced anticipatory looks to the ball, even when the action was unsuccessful and the actor never achieved his goal. Moreover, they revised their initial predictions in response to accumulating evidence of the actor's failure. Eight-month-olds showed anticipatory looking only after seeing the actor successfully grasp and retrieve the ball. Results support a flexible, prospective social information processing ability that emerges during the first year of life.

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