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Infants Have The Ability To Make Highly Demanding Social Judgements

Update Date: May 25, 2014 05:44 AM EDT

Infants also have the ability to predict the actions of others, in spite of the activity being very cognitively demanding, a new research has found. 

Previous studies have established that infants are able to predict the actions of others in situations where goal-oriented behavior is observed. Goal oriented behavior is an action that leads to a clear outcome. 

This study set out to confirm if infants could truly understand the goal-oriented behavior of others. Researchers considered a group of 40 infants, aged between 16 ad 18 months.

First, the researchers recorded videos of a woman with two objects on a table in front of her -a toy bear and a toy horse. During one video, the woman reached out and grasped one of the toys, an example of goal-oriented behavior. During another video, the woman reached out to a toy and placed the back of her hand on it; here, the goal of the woman was less clear because an obvious action wasn't completed, the press release explained. 

The infants were then split in to two groups. One group was shown the video in which a toy was grasped; the other group was shown the video in which the woman placed the back of her hand on a toy. Following this, both groups were shown a video in which the objects' positions were reversed. During this video, the woman reached her hand out but did not contact either object. Whilst watching this video, the gaze direction of the infants was observed. If they could understand goal-oriented behavior, their gaze should lie on the toy that had originally been grasped, regardless of its change in position. The toy toward which the infant directed their gaze was interpreted as a prediction, because in the video, the woman did not touch either toy. The time it took for the infant's gaze to rest on an object was also measured, the press release added.

Findings of the experiment confirmed that the infants were able to understand goal-oriented behavior. Also, it was observed that they almost always reseted their gaze on the object that had originally been grasped. 

 "Our study shows that by 15 months of age, infants are able to rapidly recruit their knowledge of a person's goal to predict her future behavior," said Dr Krogh-Jespersen of University of Chicago, Illinois, in the press release.

The research has been detailed in the journal PLoS ONE.

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