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Abstract

In the current study, we tested whether 7-month-old infants would selectively imitate the goal-relevant aspects of an observed action. Infants saw an experimenter perform an action on one of two small toys and then were given the opportunity to act on the toys. Infants viewed actions that were either goal-directed or goal-ambiguous, and that represented either completed or uncompleted goals. Infants reproduced the goal of the experimenter only in those cases where the action was goal-directed, in both the complete and incomplete goal conditions. These results provide the first evidence that infants as young as 7 months of age selectively imitate actions based on their goal-directedness, and that they are able to analyze the goals of even uncompleted actions. Even during the first year of life, infants’ sensitivity to goal-directed action is expressed not only in their responses in visual habituation procedures, but also in their overt actions.