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Does causal action facilitate causal perception in infants younger than 6 months of age?


David H. Rakison, Department of Psychology, Carnegie Mellon University, 5000 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA, 15232, USA; e-mail:


Previous research has established that infants are unable to perceive causality until 6¼ months of age. The current experiments examined whether infants’ ability to engage in causal action could facilitate causal perception prior to this age. In Experiment 1, 4½-month-olds were randomly assigned to engage in causal action experience via Velcro sticky mittens or not engage in causal action because they wore non-sticky mittens. Both groups were then tested in the visual habituation paradigm to assess their causal perception. Infants who engaged in causal action – but not those without this causal action experience – perceived the habituation events as causal. Experiment 2 used a similar design to establish that 4½-month-olds are unable to generalize their own causal action to causality observed in dissimilar objects. These data are the first to demonstrate that infants under 6 months of age can perceive causality, and have implications for the mechanisms underlying the development of causal perception.