Do 12-24 month olds ascribe reasons to intentionally acting agents?
Beate Priewasser, Anna Krämer, Josef Perner
University of Salzburg, Department of Psychology & Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience
Perner and Esken (2015) proposed a multiple step model of how children acquire an understanding of objective reasons for intentional actions. They suggest a development from understanding goal-directed actions of others as mere regularities without considering the end point of the action as particularly desirable (6-12 months) towards the ascription of reasons consisting of the goal of the action and its evaluative desirability (at around 18months). To empirically test this transition we are currently running two studies in which infants see a video of two objects repeatedly making their way to one of two locations. Although each object always ends up in one specific location, one is an intentional agent looking for a goal (e.g., intentionally hopping to A) while the other is governed by causal regularities (rolling down and always ending up in B). Older children should (1) choose to look into A in a choice task and (2) look longer in a violation of expectation task when an interesting object is NOT in A. Preliminary data suggest that between 12-24 months of age children show understanding of the evaluative dimension of goal-directed behaviour, i.e. they understand the point of achieving a goal.