Just How Joint Is Joint Action in Infancy?


should be sent to Malinda Carpenter, Department of Developmental and Comparative Psychology, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Deutscher Platz 6, 04103 Leipzig, Germany. E-mail: carpenter@eva.mpg.de


Joint action is central to countless aspects of human life. Here I examine the roots of joint action in infancy. First, I provide evidence that—contrary to popular belief—1-year-old infants do have the social-cognitive prerequisites needed to participate in joint action, even in a relatively strict sense: they can read others’ goals and intentions, they have some basic understanding of common knowledge, and they have the ability and motivation to help others achieve their goals. Then I review some evidence of infants’ and young children’s active participation in different types of joint action, from prelinguistic communication to more instrumental collaborations with others, with a particular focus on whether young children show evidence of an understanding of the commitments and obligations entailed in joint action. I conclude that the uniquely human ability and motivation to participate in joint action is already seen in infants by 1 year of age.