Correspondences between what infants see and know about causal and self-propelled motion.

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Abstract or Description

The associative learning account of how infants identify human motion rests on the assumption that this knowledge is derived from statistical regularities seen in the world. Yet, no catalog exists of what visual input infants receive of human motion, and of causal and self-propelled motion in particular. In this manuscript, we demonstrate that the frequency with which causal agency and self-propelled motion appear in the visual environment predicts infants' understanding of these motions. In an observational study, an infant wearing a head-mounted camera saw people act as agents in causal events three times more often than he saw people engaged in self-propelled motion. Subsequent experiments with the habituation paradigm revealed that infants begin to generalize self-propulsion to agents in causal events between 10 and 14 months of age. However, infants cannot generalize causal agency to a self-propelled object at 14 or 18 months unless the object exhibits additional cues to animacy. The results are discussed within a domain-general framework of learning about human action.




Published In

Cognition, 118, 2, 171-192.