Reaching the goal: Active experience facilitates 8-month-old infants’ prospective analysis of goal-based actions

Sheila Krogh-Jespersen*, Amanda L. Woodward

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


From early in development, infants view others’ actions as structured by intentions, and this action knowledge may be supported by shared action production/perception systems. Because the motor system is inherently prospective, infants’ understanding of goal-directed actions should support predictions of others’ future actions, yet little is known about the nature and developmental origins of this ability, specifically whether young infants use the goal-directed nature of an action to rapidly predict future social behaviors and whether their action experience influences this ability. Across three conditions, we varied the level of action experience infants engaged in to determine whether motor priming influenced infants’ ability to generate rapid social predictions. Results revealed that young infants accurately generated goal-based visual predictions when they had previously been reaching for objects; however, infants who passively observed a demonstration were less successful. Further analyses showed that engaging the cognitively based prediction system to generate goal-based predictions following motor engagement resulted in slower latencies to predict, suggesting that these smart predictions take more time to deploy. Thus, 8-month-old infants may have motor representations of goal-directed actions, yet this is not sufficient for them to predict others’ actions; rather, their own action experience supports the ability to rapidly implement knowledge to predict future behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)31-45
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Experimental Child Psychology
StatePublished - Jul 1 2018


  • Active experience
  • Eye-tracking
  • Goal Prediction Speed
  • Goal-based action predictions
  • Infants
  • Prospective reasoning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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