• Open Access

Nine-months-old infants do not need to know what the agent prefers in order to reason about its goals: on the role of preference and persistence in infants’ goal-attribution


Mikolaj Hernik AFC-UCL Developmental Neuroscience Unit, 12 Maresfield Gardens, London NW3 5SD, UK; e-mail: m.hernik@ucl.ac.uk


Human infants readily interpret others’ actions as goal-directed and their understanding of previous goals shapes their expectations about an agent’s future goal-directed behavior in a changed situation. According to a recent proposal (Luo & Baillargeon, 2005), infants’ goal-attributions are not sufficient to support such expectations if the situational change involves broadening the set of choice-options available to the agent, and the agent’s preferences among this broadened set are not known. The present study falsifies this claim by showing that 9-month-olds expect the agent to continue acting towards the previous goal even if additional choice-options become available for which there is no preference-related evidence. We conclude that infants do not need to know about the agent’s preferences in order to form expectations about its goal-directed actions. Implications for the role of action persistency and action selectivity are discussed.