Observation and Initiation of Joint Action in Infants


concerning this article should be addressed to Christine Fawcett, Department of Psychology, Uppsala University, 751 42 Uppsala, Sweden. Electronic mail may be sent to christine.fawcett@psyk.uu.se.


Infants imitate others’ individual actions, but do they also replicate others’ joint activities? To examine whether observing joint action influences infants’ initiation of joint action, forty-eight 18-month-old infants observed object demonstrations by 2 models acting together (joint action), 2 models acting individually (individual action), or 1 model acting alone (solitary action). Infants’ behavior was examined after they were given each object. Infants in the joint action condition attempted to initiate joint action more often than infants in the other conditions, yet they were equally likely to communicate for other reasons and to imitate the demonstrated object-directed actions. The findings suggest that infants learn to replicate others’ joint activity through observation, an important skill for cultural transmission of shared practices.