Infants' Sensitivity to the Causal Features of Means-End Support Sequences in Action and Perception


Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences, University of Washington, Campus Box 357988, Seattle, WA 98195. E-mail:


Current work has yielded differential findings regarding infants' ability to perceptually detect the causal structure of a means-end support sequence. Resolving this debate has important implications for perception-action dissociations in this domain of object knowledge. In Study 1, 12-month-old infants' ability to perceive the causal structure of a cloth-pulling sequence was assessed via a habituation paradigm. After seeing an event in which a supported toy was moved by pulling a cloth that it sat on, 12-month-old infants demonstrated longer looking to events that violated the causal structure of this sequence than to events that preserved the causal structure but varied other perceptual features of the event. Studies 2 and 3 investigated 10-month-olds' interpretations of means-end support sequences using both a habituation paradigm and a task that assessed infants' own means-end actions. Whereas 10-month-olds failed to demonstrate an understanding of the causal structure when tested using a flat cloth as the support (Study 2), sensitivity to this structure was apparent when a rectangular box was the support. These patterns were evident in both action and perception (Study 3). Moreover, individual variation in action task performance was related to visual habituation performance. The results are discussed with respect to the relation between action and perception in infancy.