Making smart social judgments takes time: Infants' recruitment of goal information when generating action predictions

Sheila Krogh-Jespersen, Amanda L. Woodward

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Previous research has shown that young infants perceive others' actions as structured by goals. One open question is whether the recruitment of this understanding when predicting others' actions imposes a cognitive challenge for young infants. The current study explored infants' ability to utilize their knowledge of others' goals to rapidly predict future behavior in complex social environments and distinguish goal-directed actions from other kinds of movements. Fifteen-month-olds (N = 40) viewed videos of an actor engaged in either a goal-directed (grasping) or an ambiguous (brushing the back of her hand) action on a Tobii eye-tracker. At test, critical elements of the scene were changed and infants' predictive fixations were examined to determine whether they relied on goal information to anticipate the actor's future behavior. Results revealed that infants reliably generated goal-based visual predictions for the grasping action, but not for the back-of-hand behavior. Moreover, response latencies were longer for goal-based predictions than for location-based predictions, suggesting that goal-based predictions are cognitively taxing. Analyses of areas of interest indicated that heightened attention to the overall scene, as opposed to specific patterns of attention, was the critical indicator of successful judgments regarding an actor's future goal-directed behavior. These findings shed light on the processes that support "smart" social behavior in infants, as it may be a challenge for young infants to use information about others' intentions to inform rapid predictions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere98085
JournalPloS one
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 16 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)

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