Spaepen, E. & Spelke, E. (in press). Will any doll do? 12-month-olds' reasoning about goal objects. Cognition.
Abstract: Infants as young as 5 months of age view familiar actions such as reaching as goal-directed (Woodward, 1998), but how do they construe the goal of an actor’s reach? Six experiments investigated whether 12-month-old infants represent reaching actions as directed to a particular individual object, to a narrowly defined object category (e.g., an orange dump truck), or to a more broadly defined object category (e.g., any truck, vehicle, artifact, or inanimate object). The experiments provide evidence that infants are predisposed to represent reaching actions as directed to categories of objects at least as broad as the basic level, both when the objects represent artifacts (trucks) and when they represent people (dolls). Infants do not use either narrower category information or spatiotemporal information to specify goal objects. Because spatiotemporal information is central to infants’ representations of inanimate object motions and interactions, the findings are discussed in relation to the development of object knowledge and action representations.

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