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Abstract

How do infants identify the psychological actors in their environments? Three groups of 12-month-old infants were tested for their willingness to encode a simple approach behavior as goal-directed as a function of whether it was performed by (1) a human hand, (2) a morphologically unfamiliar green object that interacted with a confederate and behaved intentionally, or (3) the same unfamiliar green object that behaved in a matched, but apparently random manner. Using a visual habituation technique, only infants in the first two conditions were found to encode the approach behavior as goal-directed. Thus infants appear able to attribute goals to non-human, even unfamiliar agents. These results imply that by the end of the first year of life infants have a broad notion of what counts as an agent that cannot easily be reduced to humans, objects that are perceptually similar to humans, or objects that display self-propulsion.