COGNITION

Cognition 72 (1999) 237±267 www.elsevier.com/locate/cognit

Goal attribution without agency cues: the perception of `pure reason' in infancy
Âro  c, d, È rgy Gergely b, c, Szilvia Bõ Gergely Csibra a,*, Gyo c a  s , Margaret Brockbank Orsolya Koo
a

Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development, Department of Psychology, Birkbeck College, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HX, UK b University College, London, UK c Institute of Psychology, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest, Hungary d University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK Received 4 April 1997; received in revised form 4 April 1998; accepted 4 June 1999

Abstract The proper domain of naive psychological reasoning is human action and human mental states but such reasoning is frequently applied to non-human phenomena as well. The studies reported in this paper test the validity of the currently widespread belief that this tendency is rooted in the fact that naive psychological reasoning is initially restricted to, and triggered by, the perception of self-initiated movement of agents. We report three habituation experiments which examine the necessary conditions under which infants invoke a psychological principle, namely the principle of rational action, to interpret behaviour as goal directed action. Experiment 1 revealed that the principle of rational action already operates at 9 (but not yet at 6) months of age. Experiment 2 demonstrated that perceptual cues indicating agency, such as self-propulsion, are not necessary prerequisites for interpreting behaviour in terms of the principle of rational action. Experiment 3 con®rmed that this effect cannot be attributed to generalisation of agentive properties from one object to another. These results suggest that the domain of naive psychology is initially de®ned only by the applicability of its core principles and its ontology is not restricted to (featurally identi®ed) object kinds such as persons, animates, or agents. We argue that in its initial state naive psychological reasoning is not a cue-based but a principle-based theory. q 1999 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Reasoning; Goal attribution; Rational action

* Corresponding author. Tel.: 1 44-171-631-6323; fax: 1 44-171-631-6587. E-mail address: g.csibra@bbk.ac.uk (G. Csibra) 0010-0277/99/$ - see front matter q 1999 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved. PII: S 0010-027 7(99)00039-6

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G. Csibra et al. / Cognition 72 (1999) 237±267

1. Introduction The currently in¯uential domain-speci®city approach holds that early cognitive development can be usefully characterised in terms of independent domain-speci®c systems of knowledge (e.g. Hirschfeld & Gelman, 1994). In this view the interpretation of and reasoning about the behaviour and properties of entities belonging to a given domain is governed by a set of core principles (Carey & Spelke, 1994) speci®c to that domain. Concrete proposals about domain-speci®c organisation of knowledge in cognitive development have been advanced for ®elds such as language (Chomsky, 1980), physics (Spelke, 1990), biology (Carey, 1985), number (Wynn, 1992), or psychology (Premack, 1990; Leslie, 1994). One central question that arises within the domain-speci®city approach concerns the nature of the selectional processes involved in the identi®cation of the entities that belong to a given domain (cf. Carey & Spelke, 1994). How do people decide, for example, when it is appropriate (or useful) to invoke psychological principles (as opposed to, say, principles of naive physics) to explain or predict diverse phenomena they observe? In this paper we focus on this issue as it relates to the developmental origins of naive psychological understanding and examine how infants and young children come to identify the scope of this particular domain of knowledge. Naive theory of mind has evolved to represent and interpret people's behaviour in terms of intentional causal mental states such as beliefs and desires (Dennett, 1987; Fodor, 1987, 1992; Leslie, 1994), and so, arguably, the proper domain of our naive psychology is human action and the intentional mind states that are causally related to it. Yet, people readily attribute intentions, beliefs, and purposes to immaterial imaginary entities (gods, spirits, etc.), to human artefacts (such as computers), to natural phenomena (such as tornadoes) or to abstract processes (such as natural evolution). A well-known early demonstration of the `promiscuity' of mentalistic explanations is the classical study of Heider and Simmel (1944) in which adult human subjects spontaneously provided rich anthropomorphic interpretations in terms of desires, intentions and beliefs for the animated behavioural interactions of geometric shapes. Similarly, Piaget's work on animistic and ®nalistic explanations in childhood demonstrated that even young children tend to interpret the behaviour of non-human entities (such as clouds) in terms of attributed intentions and beliefs. The usual explanation for such a tendency to apply psychological concepts to non-human entities holds that it re¯ects an overextension of an interpretational strategy which has originally developed for the explanation of human intentional actions (Piaget, 1929). This general view implies that at its ontogenetically earliest emergence naive psychological reasoning is applied exclusively to its proper domain, that is, to the intentional actions of human beings. The initial categorisation of an object as human is thought to be based on the detection of perceptual and/or behavioural features characteristic of human beings and is seen as a precondition for applying the principles of psychological reasoning to interpret its behaviour. In so far as a non-human entity exhibits similar human-like features or behavioural cues, the psychological explanatory framework may become overextended to it as well.

G. Csibra et al. / Cognition 72 (1999) 237±267

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One recent example of such an approach is provided by Meltzoff (1995), who has reported evidence that after having observed an adult model perform three failed instrumental attempts to achieve a goal, 18-month-old infants would re-enact the intended act (that they had never seen realised), and not the failed attempts. However, when the same (unsuccessful) actions were modelled not by a person but by a mechanical device, the infants failed to produce the target act. Meltzoff draws two major conclusions: by the time infants are 18 months old (a) they `are construing behaviour in terms of a psychological framework including goals of acts' and (b) they `are thinking in terms of goals that are connected to people and not to things' (p. 848). Based on his extended work on neonatal imitation (Meltzoff & Moore, 1977, 1989, 1994). Meltzoff argues that people are perceptually identi®ed on the basis of their ability to perform biomechanical bodily movements (such as facial expressions or manual acts) that the infant can map onto his/her innate `supramodal body scheme'. This results in the behaviour becoming categorised as a `human act' (Meltzoff & Gopnik, 1993; Meltzoff & Moore, 1994) which is a precondition for attributing a goal to it. Since the behaviour of the mechanical device was not humanlike in the above sense, it was categorised as a thing rather than a person, and so the infants did not proceed to infer a goal for the robot's behaviour. Note, however, that there are alternative ways to explain the lack of re-enactment of the intended act in the case of the mechanical device: for example, it may be that the lack of biomechanical movement in the target act restricts the tendency to imitate the act, rather than restricting the tendency to infer a goal from the pattern of behaviour observed. Alternatively, it may also be the case that infants of that age interpret a behaviour as a `failed attempt to achieve a goal' only if the object belongs to an already familiar object kind whose actions have on previous occasions been successfully interpreted as goal-directed. The plausibility of such alternative accounts for the Meltzoff ®nding is strengthÂro  ened by the results of a recent habituation study (Csibra, Gergely, Brockbank, Bõ  s 1998) which demonstrated that already at 12 months infants can infer a & Koo goal for an incomplete action that is performed by a computer-animated circle which shows no human-like features and whose behaviour is not biomechanical. Similarly, Johnson, Slaughter and Carey (1998) have shown that 12-month-olds would visually follow the spatial orientation of a non-human object that had exhibited contingent reactivity to the infant's behaviour, even in conditions in which the object had no human-like features and its behaviour was not biomechanical. Since this kind of `gaze following' response is often considered to re¯ect (or at least be a precursor of) understanding referential mental states in others (BaronCohen, 1994), the ®nding suggests that neither human-like facial or bodily features nor biomechanical movement are necessary preconditions for the application of psychological principles to interpret an object's behaviour. In fact, the Johnson et al. (1998) study identi®es another candidate as the potential basis for categorising an object as belonging to the domain of naive psychological explanations, namely, the object's ability to show contingent reactivity at a distance (see also Mandler, 1992).

(In Expt. Since the subjects showed more recovery of attention in the test phase when they saw the familiar (but now non-rational) `jumping action' than when they were presented with the new (but sensible) `straight line approach'.D). see Fig. or the already familiar `jumping approach' (Fig. Na evidence that. 1D) which. Adults tend to interpret this behaviour as an instrumental action to achieve a goal state (that of reaching or contacting the large circle). 1 below we report a replication of this study with 9. 1C) which. (1995) concluded that the one-year-olds had indeed interpreted the habituation event within a naive psychological framework as a rational action towards a particular goal state. 1A). following habituation. the presence of an `obstacle' separating the two circles). comparably to adult subjects (Heider & Simmel.240 G. Fig.e. one-yearolds can interpret the behaviour of computer animated shapes (exhibiting no human-like features) as a case of goal-directed rational action. 1. / Cognition 72 (1999) 237±267  dasdy. because the jumping approach is seen as a justi®able action to realise such a goal given the constraints of the reality context (i. 1C. Csibra & Bõ Âro  1995) we provided In an earlier study (Gergely. could be judged as a sensible action towards the same goal state. with test trials in which the `obstacle' was no longer present (Fig. 1.and 6-month-olds. Infants saw either a novel action (the `straight line approach'. however. . Gergely et al.) The infants were habituated to a visual event in which they observed a small circle repeatedly approach and contact a large circle by `jumping over' a rectangular ®gure separating them (Fig. given that the `obstacle' has now been removed. The sequence of stimulus events in Expt. Whether or not one-year-olds also interpret this event in the same manner was assessed by presenting them. 1944). could no longer be justi®ed in the new situation as a rational action to achieve the goal. Note again that such an interpretation was generated even though the two-dimensional abstract ®gures on the computer screen showed no featural resemblance to a human person. Csibra et al.

1997. the behaviour of the jumping circle can be explained teleologically by reference to its end state (contacting the large circle) if the rectangle separating them is interpreted as an impenetrable solid obstacle. In this model. In sum: the studies discussed above seem to indicate (a) that as early as 12 months of age infants can apply a naive psychological framework to interpret the behaviour of objects. 1998) that to interpret such an event as a goal-directed action infants apply what we call the `teleological stance' or a `naive theory of rational action'. Csibra et al. 1994. 1990. Note that the principle of rational action also generates an action prediction for the new situation in which the obstacle is no longer present: the small circle ought to approach its goal through the most justi®able (shortest straight line) route that has now become available. In Leslie's tripartite theory of agency (Leslie. As an alternative to the strict linkage of psychological reasoning to persons several authors have proposed that the initial domain of the application of psychological principles corresponds to the wider ontological category of agents. In fact. the one-year-olds seem to have generated such an expectation because they looked longer (experiencing incongruence) when the small circle's behaviour remained unchanged after the removal of the obstacle. This early interpretational system establishes a speci®c explanatory relation among three representational elements: the action.. 1995b). This agency concept belongs to the . / Cognition 72 (1999) 237±267 241 What sort of interpretational system may one-year-olds possess to generate the kind of representation of the habituation event that is implied by the above ®ndings? Elsewhere we argued (Gergely & Csibra. and the constraints of physical reality. 1995. 1995) self-propulsion is interpreted by the ®rst component (the `theory of body mechanism') of his hierarchically organised system in terms of the physical notion of `force' and its detection triggers the categorisation of the object as a `physical or mechanical agent' with an internal and renewable source of energy. the goal state. however. this way the jumping approach can be construed as a rational action leading through the shortest available path to the large circle.G. a number of proposals hypothesised that humans are hard-wired to detect selfpropelled movement which triggers the direct perceptual categorisation of the object as agent (Baron-Cohen. goal attribution) to interpret the behaviour of the object. Such a representational structure constitutes a well-formed teleological interpretation. The concept of agency. and (b) that such an interpretation is not dependent on the detection of human-like features or biomechanical movement indicating personhood. however. 1994. only if it satis®es the principle of rational action which states that an action can be explained by reference to a future goal state if and only if it is seen as the most justi®able action towards that goal state that is available within the constraints of reality. 1995) the detection of movement cues indicating agency is a necessary precondition for the application of psychological principles (for example. Leslie. Premack & Premack. 1994. According to these proposals (see also Gergely et al. Csibra & Gergely. has been conceptualised at several different levels. In fact. Premack. Agents are objects with the capacity to become the causal source of events and exhibit movement cues such as self-propulsion which may serve as the perceptual basis for their identi®cation.

Intentional agents are self-propelled objects whose actions are caused by intentional mental states. 208). Neither of these studies could. As Premack and Premack (1995a) put it: `When activated by the appropriate movement ± that of self-propelled object ± the ®rst component in the infant's social system outputs the interpretation intentional. condition for setting up an intentional interpretation of the object's behaviour. therefore. This component of `actional agency' then assigns goals to the actions of selfpropelled agents and interprets their behaviour in terms of `teleological causation'.and 6-month-old subjects to see how early in infancy the sophisticated ability to interpret behaviour teleologically in terms of the principle of rational action occurs. system1').242 G. in and of itself. is to examine whether movement cues of agency are necessary at all for the application of principles of naive psychology. serves as input for the second stage of Leslie's model (`theory of mind mechanism. in both of the above approaches the detection of movement cues such as self-propulsion is a necessary. (1998) studies both provided empirical support for this idea. though not suf®cient. so the module will search for further cues (such as directionality. the acting object exhibited self-propelled movement. . the Gergely et al. (1995) with 9. however. the infants showed no evidence of having interpreted their behaviour in terms of psychological principles. The paper reports three habituation studies. but. or equi®nal outcomes. however. and thus lies outside the psychological domain of theory of mind. the type of modularist models proposed by Premack (1990) or Baron-Cohen (1994) suggests that the detection of self-propulsion triggers the direct categorisation of the object as an `intentional agent'. / Cognition 72 (1999) 237±267 domain of naive physics. The next interpretation that it outputs is goal-directed. however. 1995b) whose presence will lead to the mandatory assignment of a goal. In order to assign a particular intention or goal to the object. the detection of self-initiated movement is not suf®cient to provide an intentional interpretation of the object's behaviour. condition for this interpretation. Therefore.' (p. trajectory. the detection of self-initiated movement is not suf®cient. however. The central aim of this paper. indeed. In contrast. (1995) and the Johnson et al. external) that drives the object's behaviour. This is so because in the experimental conditions of both studies. because they included control conditions in which the object did display self-initiated movement. where a psychological interpretation was demonstrated. they pursue goals. and they can react contingently to the behaviour of other objects at a distance. though not suf®cient. nevertheless. answer the question whether the movement cues of agency are. 1994. Experiments 2 and 3 are designed to investigate whether this precocious ability for teleological interpretation is dependent on the presence of movement cues of agency such as self-propulsion. necessary for interpreting the behaviour of the object within the explanatory framework of naive psychology. Thus. The ®rst experiment is a replication of Gergely et al. see Baron-Cohen. The resulting categorisation of the object as a mechanical agent. Csibra et al. In fact. or whether the processes involved in goal assignment are independent of the perception of the type of causal source of energy (internal vs. Premack & Premack. Intentional [based on self-propulsion] is a necessary.

it `jumped in the air' (as if gaining a vertical impulse) and. 1B) differed only in the location of the static black rectangular block.4 s. Upon contact the two circles performed again their reciprocal expansion-contraction routine twice (1.8 s). range 24. / Cognition 72 (1999) 237±267 243 2. Method 2.9 weeks. full-term infants who were recruited through advertisements in local Hungarian magazines. Then the small circle started to move on a horizontal pathway towards the large one.G. The habituation events for the experimental group (see Fig.5 s). The test events were the same for both the experimental and the control groups. The 6-month-olds participated only in the experimental condition (rational approach).8 weeks. This part of the event took 1. always appearing `behind' the small circle. it landed on the horizontal plane again. An additional 26 nine-month-olds and 29 six-month-olds were also tested but were excluded from the data analysis for the following reasons: fussiness or falling asleep (6 and 12). 1A) and for the control group (see Fig. range 32. experimental error (2 and 2). Experiment 1 2. Csibra et al. following a parabolic trajectory. 1C) was identical to the habituation event in every . while staying stationary on the horizontal ground surface of the screen. Stimuli The stimuli were computer-animated visual events.4) during the test trials (11 and 9).2.8 s. This was immediately followed by the same action performed by the small circle. After landing on the surface it continued its horizontal movement on the ground until it made contact with the large circle at the opposite side of the screen. Thus. In the rational approach condition the block appeared in the middle of the screen separating the small and the large circles. failing to reach the habituation criterion within 16 trials (7 and 6). mean age 37. the large circle expanded then contracted regaining its original size.3 weeks) infants participated in the study. Subjects Forty-eight 9-month-old (26 males and 22 females.7 weeks) and 24 6-month-old (8 males and 16 females. First. as a result of this trajectory the small circle avoided contact with the black rectangle in the middle of the screen as if `jumping over an obstacle'. The old action test event (Fig. while the other half formed the control group (non-rational approach). 2.1.1. The movement of the small circle from the one side of the screen to the other lasted 1. or too short looking times (see Section 2.3±29. All of the subjects were healthy. mean age 26. Following this. the small circle started to move again towards the large one but. It then reversed direction and moved back to its original position (0. in the experimental condition.1. The test event started as soon as the two circles and the rectangle appeared on the monitor.1. while in the control group it was positioned either near the right or the left edge of the screen. and then this contingent `exchange' was repeated once more. but it stopped in the middle of the screen (before reaching the rectangular block in the experimental condition).6±42. when reaching the position where it had stopped before. Half of the 9-month-olds (24 infants) were randomly assigned to the experimental group (rational approach).1.

A video camera focusing on the subject's face was located below the monitor. The computer program averaged the ®xation times for the ®rst three habituation . the trial was ignored.5 s. differed from the habituation event in the following additional respects as well: the small circle (a) did not perform the initial forward-backward movement after the expansion-contraction routine and (b) did not `jump' in the middle of the screen. When the baby looked at the monitor. the experimenter drew the baby's attention to the display by presenting coloured ¯ashes on the monitor and sounding tones. The 18 £ 24 cm colour computer monitor appeared in a window cut in a large black occluding screen which made sure that the child's attention would not be drawn to other objects in the room. When the infant looked away. Then the experimenter drew the baby's attention to the monitor again by ¯ashing lights and sounding tones. A trial had to last at least 2 s to be treated as valid. if the subject looked at the event for less than 2 s. it moved at a constant speed across a horizontal pathway until it made contact with the large circle (straight-line approach). while the new action test event lasted 5.3. / Cognition 72 (1999) 237±267 respect except that the rectangular ®gure was absent. From there she also controlled the stimulus presentation and registered the looking times by operating the keyboard of a computer. Apparatus The infants sat in their parent's lap in a darkened experimental room looking at the monitor placed at eye level from a distance of one meter.e.39 cm diameter) was red. the small circle approached the large one from left to right or vice versa with equal frequency. i. 2. while the background was light green in all events. 1D) which. computer-controlled speaker was placed on the monitor for the presentation of tones in order to get the infant's attention. Its lens peeped through a hole cut in the screen 25 cm below the subject's eye level. i.244 G. the experimenter hit a key on the keyboard. the small one (0. Each event started with the simultaneous appearance of the two circles at the two sides of the screen (and with the rectangular ®gure in the middle or at the edge of the screen in the two habituation conditions. When an event ended. A small. The horizontal velocity of the small circle's motion was 10 cm/s.e. Both the habituation event and the old action test event lasted 5. the experimenter started the presentation of the stimulus event which was repeated continuously until the subject looked away for more than 2 s. when necessary. however. This allowed the experimenter to monitor the subject's eye ®xations on a TV monitor in a separate room. During the habituation phase the presentation of the event or its mirror image was randomly varied. the computer program stopped the stimulus display and registered the looking time for the trial.94 cm diameter) was yellow. and if she did not signal within 2 s by hitting another key that the baby looked back again. Csibra et al. Instead. the next trial was started. Procedure At the beginning of each trial.0 s.4. When the infant looked at the screen again. 2. respectively). The rectangular ®gure was also missing in the new action test event (Fig. The large circle (1. the ®gures disappeared from the screen. After a 1 s break the stimulus event was presented again. the rectangular ®gure (3:76 £ 1:13 cm) was black.1.1.

who was sitting on a swivel chair. P . 46† ˆ 6:79.G. In a three-way ANOVA for the 9-month-olds. this analysis revealed . Results The average number of completed habituation trials was 8. After the habituation criterion was reached. / Cognition 72 (1999) 237±267 245 trials and compared this value on-line with the average of the last three ®xation times.2. a 30 s break was introduced during which the mother.58 habituation trials which was signi®cantly higher than that of the experimental group of the 9-month-olds who were habituated to the same events: F …1. 1D) and an old action event (Fig. 1C). In contrast. 0:02. the 6-montholds produced an average of 9. F …1. There were no signi®cant differences in the average looking times for either the ®rst or the last three trials of the habituation phase between the groups. In the test phase. P . we had to make certain that they had a chance to identify which kind of event was presented to them. 2. The test trials were delivered in the same way as the habituation trials. indicating that the experimental group looked longer at the test events than did the control group. while the other half of the subjects received the same stimuli in the opposite order. The experimenter was blind to the order in which the two test stimuli were presented. Furthermore.0 in both the experimental and the control groups among the 9-month-olds. The habituation criterion used required that the average ®xation time for the last three trials be less than half of the average looking times for the ®rst three habituation trials and this requirement had to be met twice in a row. control group in the case of the 9-month-olds) as between-subject factors. since each event lasted for at least 5 s. and order (new ®rst vs. we instructed the mothers to close their eyes so that they could not inadvertently bias their infant's reaction to the dishabituation displays. we eliminated this factor from the further analyses. right to left) and condition (experimental vs. Csibra et al. Each subject watched two test trials: a new action (Fig. was asked to turn away from the monitor with her baby in her lap. the minimal number of habituation trials was 7. The mean ®xation times during the test phase were analysed by ANOVAs using event type (new vs. Thus. 0:05. 44† ˆ 5:24. the direction of the movement of the small circle was ®xed within subjects (right to left or the opposite) but it was counterbalanced across subjects independently of the order in which they received the two types of test trials. old ®rst). Since the initial analyses did not reveal any effect of the direction of the small circle's movement during the test phase (right to left vs. In order to ensure that the subjects' dishabituation scores would re¯ect their reaction to the nature of the stimulus event. the total looking times during the test phase showed a signi®cant main effect of condition. The mean ®xation times are summarised in Table 1. we excluded from the analysis all those subjects who watched either of the two test trials for less than 4 s and so had no opportunity to observe the full event structure. old) as a within-subject factor. left to right). Therefore. For half of the subjects the ®rst test trial was a new action display followed by an old action trial. direction of movement (left to right vs. When they turned back and the test trials started.

and there was also a signi®cant three-way (event type £ order £ condition) interaction.3 76.6 7.1 34.6 10.7 28. F …1. Baillargeon. that the order effect in question is independent of the in¯uence that the type of test events (rational vs. The main effect of event type is due to the fact that subjects dishabituated more to the old action than to the new action test event. 22† ˆ 4:58.6 10. 1 .2 11.4 52.2 2 3 Last trials -3 -2 -1 Test phase New action Old action signi®cant two-way interactions between event type and condition.1 15.4 8.7 18. A similar two-way The strong in¯uence that the presentation order of the test events had on the infants' looking times in the experimental group (re¯ected by the event type £ order interactions in the ANOVAs) is not unprecedented in habituation studies.7 12.246 G. Csibra et al.0 9.3 73.2 76.7 11. F …1. 44† ˆ 4:86.7 53.9 9. It is important to note.5 31.7 63.0 10. non-rational approach) had on the looking behaviour of the infants.4 29.8 57.3 20. 0:05.4 9.5 31.7 8.0 21.8 9. P . 44† ˆ 8:06.3 37. F …1.1 7.9 31. The interaction is due to the fact that the ®rst test trial tended to elicit longer ®xation times irrespective of the event type presented 1 (see Fig.9 18.1 22.2 9.9 12.7 13.7 5.5 16.8 7. 2).0 8. P .2 12. Therefore.. 0:05 on the one hand.3 6. 0:05.8 7. 0:05.4 10.2 12. 1±3 Habituation phase First trials 1 Experiment 1 Experimental group 6-month-olds (n ˆ 24) 9-month-olds (n ˆ 24) Control group 9-month-olds (n ˆ 24) Experiment 2 Experimental group 9-month-olds (n ˆ 18) 12-month-olds (n ˆ 18) Control group 9-month-olds (n ˆ 18) 12-month-olds (n ˆ 18) Experiment 3 9-month-olds (n ˆ 20) 12-month-olds (n ˆ 20) 48.8 5. however.7 14.0 18. 0:01 on the other.8 9.6 9. The ANOVA for the experimental condition resulted in a signi®cant main effect of event type.9 35.3 20.0 32. and event type and order. P .7 8. 1986).4 26. P . we performed separate two-way analyses in the experimental and control groups. P . 22† ˆ 6:70.4 13. We found a similar effect in the control group of 12-month-old infants (Gergely et al. / Cognition 72 (1999) 237±267 Table 1 Mean looking times (s) during the habituation and test phases in Expts.5 17.4 17.0 7.9 17.2 26. and a signi®cant interaction between event type and order of presentation.5 14. 44† ˆ 4:47.8 12.3 9.8 14. F …1.1 14.4 13. 1995) as well as in the group of 6-month-olds in the present experiment and such order effects have been reported in other habituation studies as well (see e.g.4 16. F …1.3 17.4 37.

(1995) in 9month-old infants. . irrespective of the type of event presented (see Fig.3.8%) showed longer looking times for the old action test event than for the new action test event (P . 2. that can be interpreted as a rational means action toward a goal state in the given situation. In contrast. only 11 subjects in the control group of 9-month-olds (45. only the 9-month-olds displayed differential responses to the two types of test events.G. This pattern of results was recon®rmed by the fact that 17 subjects in the experimental group of 9-month-olds (70. Discussion Experiment 1 successfully replicated the results of Gergely et al. Csibra et al. 0:05.2%) showed this response pattern. This result indicates that the infants expected that the goal-directed action of the observed Fig. 2. The two-way ANOVA performed for the 6-month-old group showed only one signi®cant interaction between event type and presentation order. F …1. 22† ˆ 6:44. Mean looking times (and standard errors) in the test phase of Expt. 2). 0:05. 1 as a function of event type and order of presentation. P . These results demonstrate that although both age groups dishabituated more to the ®rst than to the second test event in the experimental condition. sign-test). This ®nding indicates that as early as 9 months of age infants can engage in naive psychological reasoning about behaviour relying on the principle of rationality of action. Our 9-month-old subjects displayed more recovery of attention during the test phase (in which the rectangle was removed) when presented with the same jumping action than when they saw a new action (the straight-line approach). and only 13 subjects in the group of 6-month-olds (54. In the experimental condition the infants were habituated to the equi®nal spatial behaviour of an abstract ®gure (that of approaching the large circle by `jumping over' the rectangle separating them).8%). / Cognition 72 (1999) 237±267 247 ANOVA revealed no signi®cant effects in the control group. This effect re¯ects the same tendency as was seen in the experimental group of 9-month-olds: the ®rst test event elicited longer looking times than did the second.

Since the habituation events for the experimental and the control groups differed only in the location of the rectangle but not in the actual movements performed by the object. Such a view has been proposed by a number of researchers partly on theoretical grounds (Leslie. the infants could not generate a speci®c expectation as to the likely behaviour of the object in the test events. In contrast to the 9-month-olds. 1994. Note that this pattern of result was obtained in spite of the fact that the new action test display was perceptually more dissimilar to the habituation stimulus event than was the old action test event (which. 1995). This conclusion receives further support from the results of the control group. In inferring the appropriate action for the new situation they relied on two assumptions: (i) that the end-state (goal) of the object's behaviour would remain unchanged and (ii) that the novel action to be performed ought to be the most rational action available in the new situation to reach this end state. one may safely conclude that the infants' differential interpretation of the observed behaviour must have been induced by the alternative context within which it was performed.248 G. i. In contrast. This age-differential result ®ts nicely into the developmental sequence suggested by several sources of evidence according to which by 12 months of age infants start to show the beginnings of naive psychological understanding of at least certain aspects of intentional behaviour in others.e. Since the control subjects were presented with the very same test events as the experimental group. Accordingly. by the difference in the constraints that the context of reality imposed on the set of possible actions. however. which suggests that they did not develop any speci®c expectation about the likely future actions of the object on the basis of its behaviour exhibited during the habituation event. displayed the very same jumping approach to which the infants were habituated in the ®rst place). the 6-month-old infants showed no signs of having interpreted the habituation event in a teleological framework. they should have reacted differentially to the two types of test events as did the 9. a well-formed teleological representation relating the jumping approach as a rational action to the target position as a goal state could not be set up. Had they done so. / Cognition 72 (1999) 237±267 object would be adjusted to ®t the new situational constraints provided by the transformed state of reality (lack of obstacle). In the control condition these constraints did not allow for an interpretation of the observed jumping action as a justi®able approach of the target position. the new action test event did ful®l the subjects' expectation to see a rational goalapproach in the new situation as well. in fact. The control subjects showed no difference in looking times for the two types of test events. In the absence of such a teleological interpretation of the habituation event. the control subjects did not display differential responses to the two types of test stimuli. partly on observational data showing the emergence by the end of the ®rst year of qualitatively new kinds of communicative behaviours such as pointing . was violated by the old action test event resulting in the signi®cant increase in looking times observed.and 12-month-olds. Csibra et al. Therefore. their different response pattern must re¯ect their differential interpretation of the habituation events. as there was a more rational alternative available but not taken (the straight-line approach). This expectation.

in Expts. Spelke.e. we nevertheless wish to caution against too hastily interpreting such a null-result as being due to a genuine lack of competence to interpret behaviour within a naive psychological framework. / Cognition 72 (1999) 237±267 249 and gaze following. and contingent reactivity at a distance) this line of argument cannot be ruled out on the basis of our evidence. Premack & Premack. First. 1990.. 1995a) and/or behavioural interactive cues such as contingent reactivity at a distance (Watson. slightly earlier than the time by which the cluster of more convincing behavioural indicators consolidates (cf. they may not be able to apply the principle of rational action even if that principle is already at their disposal. Barresi & Moore. our habituation ®ndings do not seem to be amenable to explanation in terms of simpler psychological processes such as conditioning. it is clear that one can evaluate the rationality of an action only relative to some set of background conditions.g. Johnson et al. 1985. i. they may still lack some of the further cognitive preconditions that are necessary for the application of this competence. 1995). Leslie. selfpropulsion. 1998) which may be hard-wired indicators of intentionality. 1994. 1994. unlike the behavioural evidence (Moore & Corkum. Our current results strengthen as well as slightly modify this emerging view. 1995. irregular pathway. for example. Csibra et al. 1995). Of course. Baron-Cohen. infants must rely on their relevant knowledge of the physical constraints on the spatial movements of objects. Since our habituation event included a number of such cues (e. Therefore. because there may be alternative explanations for the data. Phillips & Woodward. This indicates that the domain of the teleological interpretational strategy does not seem to be restricted to humans or to social interactive contexts in which the interpreter is an active participant. Third. Tomasello. When evaluating the rationality of spatial approach. 1994. the scope of psychological interpretations is still restricted to the (wider) class of agents that are identi®ed by detecting movement cues such as self-propulsion (Premack. Second. Corkum & Moore. 2 and 3 we address the question whether the presence of agentive movement cues and/or cues of contingent reactivity is a necessary precondition for the teleological interpretation of behaviour or not. Therefore. our study indicates that the psychological interpretation of an other agent's behaviour in terms of goals and the principle of rationality is present already at 9 months. . and partly based on experimental data (e. Even if 6-month-olds already possess the principle of rational action and the representational requirements for constructing teleological interpretations of behaviour. if some relevant aspects of knowledge in the physical domain are yet unavailable to infants. Although the lack of differential responses to the test events in our 6-month-old group is certainly suggestive.G.g. Thus. it is possible that while the identi®cation of the domain in terms of featural and biomechanical cues of personhood is indeed ruled out by the present ®ndings. 1996). our study differs from the other sources of evidence mentioned in that our subjects applied a teleological interpretation to the behaviour of an abstract ®gure (a computer-animated circle) which (a) showed no featural similarity to persons and (b) was not involved in a social interactive situation with the infant observer. social referencing or protodeclarative gestures.

2.1. Half of the subjects in both age groups were assigned to the experimental condition (rational approach). In the habituation event of the experimental condition.1 weeks) infants participated in the study.1. stationary circle positioned on its left side. or large (7. For an adult viewer. Stimuli The stimuli were computer-animated visual events. the aim of Expt. Method 3. 1 in that it preserved the equi®nal outcome-structure of the small circle's behaviour. the object came to the scene moving. 1 were eliminated in Expt.250 G. In particular. such as self-propulsion.0 cm high) (see Fig. 1 suggest that movement cues of agency. they. Subjects Thirty-six 9-month-old (26 males and 11 females. Experiment 2 As we have noted above. it did not change direction and followed an inert pathway. The height of the column was randomly varied over trials. mean age 52. experimental error (0 and 2).6 weeks) and 36 12-month-old (20 males and 16 females.1. while the other half took part in the control condition (non-rational approach). range 49. or whether infants are able to apprehend the `pure reason' manifested in the pattern of behaviour of an inertly moving object that exhibits no movement cues of agency.9±55. and it did not exhibit non-rigid surface movements.4) during the test trials (7 and 3). full-term infants who were recruited through advertisements in local Hungarian magazines. 3A). 2 was to test whether the perception of self-initiated movement (or of other movement cues of agency or animacy) is necessary at all for interpreting behaviour as goal-directed and rational.9 weeks. cannot rule out the possibility that the presence of such cues is a necessary precondition for interpreting behaviour from the teleological stance. All subjects were healthy. while the results of Gergely et al.1.1. being either small (2. medium (4. (1995) and Expt. range 36. Csibra et al. Therefore. 3. when the large circle moved on a horizontal pathway to the left side of the . mean age 39. The event started 0. 2 was similar to that of Expt. / Cognition 72 (1999) 237±267 3. However. which served as the stimulus basis for the demonstrated goalattribution. An additional 12 9month-olds and 10 12-month-olds were excluded from the data analysis because of fussiness (3 and 2). we omitted the `greeting exchange' from the beginning of the habituation events.9 weeks. giving no clue about the source of its motion.8 s later. nevertheless. ®rst a stationary rectangular column appeared on the right side of the screen with a large.2.4 cm high). may not be suf®cient to trigger the attribution of an intention or goal to an object. The habituation event in Expt.3±42. and so the infants had no perceptual information available to identify whether the small circle's behaviour was self-induced (agentive) or externally caused. failing to reach the habituation criterion within 16 trials (2 and 3).7 cm high). or too short looking times (see Section 2. all of the movement cues of agency present in Expt. 3. the object's motion looked more like a tennis-ball thrown by an invisible person than a selfmoving agent.

The three different heights of the small circle's trajectory differed in their initial upward velocity. control). the rectangular ®gure (the column or the bar) was no longer Fig. the rectangular column appeared to form an `obstacle' between the large circle and the small circle entering from the right side of the screen.2 s). the perceiver could not establish whether the small circle was moving by itself or set in motion by another object outside of the screen. Following a 0. `¯ying' just over the column. thereby demonstrating to the infants the availability of a shorter. straight-line route leading from the right side to the left. whose upper edge was at the same height as that of the corresponding column in the experimental condition. (b) At the beginning of every habituation event. The sequence of stimulus events in Expt. Csibra et al. 2. (a) The rectangular column was replaced by a small (1 cm high) rectangular bar `hanging in the air'.G. a small circle entered the screen from the right side. These two changes served to make sure that the behaviour of the small circle ¯ying over the rectangular bar. in the control condition the rectangle did not form an `obstacle' between the two sides of the screen (as it was possible to pass under it). The height of the small circle's parabolic pathway was adjusted to the variable height of the rectangular column in such a way that it always just managed to pass over it.0 s). would not be interpreted as a case of rational goal-approach since a more sensible alternative route was available. 3. Thus.5 s pause. then landing and immediately stopping at the position adjacent to the large circle (1. Thus. The pathway of the small circle formed a parabolic trajectory and its movement appeared inert as if succumbing to gravitation. but there was no visible cue available as to the source of this difference. the habituation event (See Fig. The parabolic trajectory was created as a composite of a constant horizontal velocity and a constant vertical acceleration. the large circle started out from the right side of the screen and passed under the bar on its way to the left side. / Cognition 72 (1999) 237±267 251 screen and stopped there (1. During the test events. As a result. In the test events (C and D) the large circle started out from the same location as it did in the corresponding habituation event (experimental vs. . 3B) differed from that of the experimental condition in only two details. In the control condition.

The horizontal velocity of the small circle's motion was 21 cm/s. P . In the old action test event (Fig. the small circle approached the same end-point through a novel pathway taking the shortest straight line route. the habituation criterion used required that the average ®xation time for three consecutive trials be less than half of the average looking time for the ®rst three habituation trials. the small (0. however. 1 almost all the subjects whose average looking time during the habituation phase fell below the criterion level in a given trial. / Cognition 72 (1999) 237±267 present. Procedure The procedure was the same as in Expt. entering from the right side.39 cm diameter) was red. After a 1 s break the stimulus event was started again. Since in Gergely et al. 0:05. 68† ˆ 2:41. The infants assigned to the experimental condition in both age groups tended to look longer at the ®rst habituation trial than did the infants who were shown the control events (see Table 1). 1 with the following difference.3. also met the criterion in the following trial. this difference was not statistically signi®cant. Csibra et al. 0:10. i. `¯ew' to the position adjacent to the large circle along a parabolic trajectory that corresponded to the average (medium) height of its trajectory during the habituation event. the control group looked on average longer at the last three habituation trials than did the experimental group. F …1.1 s.1. F …1.4.252 G. 3C) the behaviour of the two circles was identical to that of the habituation event. 3. The test displays were the same for both the experimental and the control groups with the sole exception that the large circle started out from a slightly different position which corresponded to its starting position in the habituation display of the two respective groups. The ®xation times during the test phase were ®rst analysed by a four-way . in Expt. 3D). 2.e.1. 3. In the new action test event (Fig. the ®gures disappeared from the screen. Therefore. In contrast. Thus. Most of the subjects (58 out of 72) completed the habituation phase in the minimal number of 6 trials and we did not ®nd any signi®cant between-condition or age difference in the number of trials needed to meet the habituation criterion. the rectangular ®gure (1. The habituation and the test events for the experimental group lasted 4. (1995) and in Expt. 1. However. while for the control group they lasted 4. the small circle.5 s. 68† ˆ 4:50. the minimal number of habituation trials was 6 in this experiment. Apparatus The experimental apparatus was identical to the one used in Expt. P . as revealed by the signi®cant main effect found in the experimental condition in a two-way (condition £ age group) ANOVA.94 cm diameter) was yellow. we decided that the double requirement was unnecessary.13 cm wide) was black. while the large circle travelled at a speed of 12 cm/s speed. while the background was light green in all events. When an event ended. The large circle (1. Results The main results are summarised in Table 1. 3.2.

while in the control condition the corresponding proportions were only 56% and 50%. 3. Since this analysis revealed no main effect of order and order did not appear in any signi®cant interaction either. These results indicate that the type of the test event (new vs. This indicates that if the equi®nal behaviour of the object within the context of the habituation event could be interpreted as a case of rational goal-approach. the infants did not dishabituate differentially to the two test events. These studies thus provide convergent evidence indicating that 9. P . indicating that the 12-month-olds looked longer at the test events than did the 9-month-olds.and 12-month-old infants can interpret the behaviour of a computer-animated abstract ®gure as a case of rational goal-directed action. F …1. Both age groups in the experimental condition in Expt. 64† ˆ 5:79. 0:05. respectively. we eliminated this factor from the further analyses. A two-way (age £ event type) ANOVA for the experimental groups produced only one signi®cant main effect of event type. and order of the test events (new ®rst vs.vs. Separate within-subject two-tailed t-tests in the two age groups also indicated that the old action event elicited longer ®xation times only in the experimental condition [t…17† ˆ 2:29 and 2. who had been habituated to the rational approach. 0:01. and one between event type and condition. dishabituated more when seeing the same action performed in a changed (no obstacle) situation (where the `old action' was no longer justi®able) than when presented with a novel (but rational) action (the straight-line approach). In contrast.11. we carried out separate ANOVAs for the two conditions. This conclusion was con®rmed by the fact that in the experimental condition 67% of the 9-montholds and 78% of the 12-month-olds looked longer at the old action event than at the new action event. respectively. 1. (1995) and in Expt. F …1. 2. 34† ˆ 5:24. in the control condition where the `¯ying approach' of the habituation event could not be construed as a rational goaldirected action (due to the availability of a more justi®able approach route). Csibra et al. In the control group a similar two-way ANOVA revealed only a signi®cant main effect of age. The four-way ANOVA yielded two signi®cant interactions: one between age group and condition. 0:05 in both cases] but not in the control condition [t…17† ˆ 1:08 and 0. the object ought to adjust its behaviour and approach the goal through the most rational pathway that has become available (the straight-line approach). 0:01. F …1. Therefore. P . / Cognition 72 (1999) 237±267 253 ANOVA. 12-month-olds). in which event type (old vs. old) in¯uenced the infants' looking behaviour only when they had been habituated to the experimental event (rational approach).3.81. while age group (9.G. 34† ˆ 8:46. First. P . 64† ˆ 8:04. irrespective of event type: F …1. P . Discussion There are two major conclusions one can draw from Expt. This effect shows that infants in both age groups displayed longer ®xation times to the old action test event than to the new action test event. condition (experimental vs. control). 0:05. new) formed a within-subject factor. respectively]. the results replicate the pattern of ®ndings reported in Gergely et al. 2. old ®rst) were used as between-subject factors. P . This indicates that . infants could infer that when the physical constraints on goal-directed action are modi®ed.

4. Experiment 3 In Expt. we can conclude that agency cues such as self-propulsion are neither suf®cient nor necessary for the teleological interpretation of behaviour. rather than to some general preference for the straight-line approach. Therefore.. If contingent reactivity at a distance is. the pattern of dishabituation shown in the experimental condition is indeed due to the differential interpretation of the habituation event. irregular path of movement. the small circle's action could be seen as being contingently related to the preceding distal action of the large circle. the results demonstrate that 9. infants could have categorised it as an agent. Thus. or non-rigid transformation of surface. This. Our second conclusion concerns the role of perceptual cues of agency in identifying objects in the domain of teleological reasoning. In this study.and 12-month-old infants do not require perceptual evidence of self-initiated movement in order to interpret the behaviour of an object as goal-directed and rational. self-propelled movement could still be seen as a necessary precondition for interpreting the object's action within a psychological framework. indeed. that of `contingent reactivity at a distance' (e.254 G. however. 2. This attribution of agency may then have been generalised to the small circle as well on the basis of their perceptual similarity. the interpretation of the habituation event within a psychological framework should not have occurred in Expt. we need to deal with several alternative explanations that may be proposed to account for our results. unlike in Gergely et al. in turn. for example. This view relies on the observation that since each habituation event started with the self-initiated movement of the large circle. In contrast. 2. they could have still categorised it as an agent due to a generalisation effect. may have triggered the teleological interpretation of the small circle's behaviour. each event started with the large object moving from the middle to the left side of the screen. that even though subjects had no direct perceptual information indicating the causal source of the movements of the goal-approaching object. Another alternative account of our data may suggest that the small circle was categorised as an intentional agent due to the presence of another type of agency cue. 1. We included this movement in order to demonstrate to the . Expt.. Thus. One may argue. 1998). (1995) and in Expt.g. Johnson et al. Were this the case. the goal-approaching object exhibited no movement cues of agency such as self-propulsion. were the perceptual identi®cation of agency based on such cues a necessary precondition for attributing goals or intentions to the object. the small circle could have become categorised as an intentional agent even though the causal source of its behaviour was not perceptible. Note that the small circle always entered the screen right after the large circle moved to the left side and stopped there. Csibra et al. Therefore. / Cognition 72 (1999) 237±267 since the test events in the experimental and the control groups were identical. Before fully embracing the above conclusion. 3 was conducted to test whether our results could be accounted for either by the generalisation account or by the contingent reactivity account. a cue to intentional agency (Johnson et al. 1998).

4) during the test trials (1 9-monthold). In all other respects the stimuli were similar to those used in Expt. full-term infants living in the Greater London area. After landing. mean age 53. The large circle (1. the small circle approached the same end-point through a novel pathway taking the shortest straight path at the ground level. that it was possible to pass through under the bar `hanging in the air'. when a small circle entered the screen from the right side. 2. To make the experimental stimuli as similar to the control stimuli as possible. 4A) ®rst a stationary rectangular column appeared on the right side of the screen and a large circle on the left side of the screen. in the experimental condition we have also introduced a comparable initial movement of the large circle from the middle to the left side that preceded the small circle's entrance to the screen. Therefore.4±54.1. medium (9. 4. `¯ew' to the position adjacent to the large circle along a parabolic trajectory that corresponded to the average (medium) height of its trajectory during the habituation event. the column was no longer present. the small circle remained motionless for a further 1.1. however.8 cm diameter) was red. Subjects Twenty 9-month-old (16 males and 4 females.2 weeks. 3 should fail to replicate the results of Expt.6 cm high). failing to reach the habituation criterion within 16 trials (2 12-montholds).8 weeks.6 weeks) and 20 12-month-old (11 males and 9 females.2 cm high).5 s later. In Expt. the small (1. The height of the column was randomly varied over trials.3 s at which point the screen cleared. mean age 37. then landing and immediately stopping at the position adjacent to the large circle (0. if such a categorisation were indeed a precondition for goal attribution. / Cognition 72 (1999) 237±267 255 infants in the control condition that there was an alternative route available to approach the target object: i. Stimuli The stimuli were computer-animated visual events that were similar to those of the experimental condition of Expt. 4A).1. 2 with the exception that now the large circle (`target object') did not move. An additional 6 9-montholds and 5 12-month-olds were excluded from the data analysis because of fussiness (5 and 3). 2.e. Thus. for this modi®ed display neither the generalisation account. In the new action test event (Fig. In the old action test event (Fig. The pathway of the small circle was generated in the same way as in Expt.1 weeks) infants participated in the study.6± 39. range 51.2. Method 4. 4C). 4B) the behaviour of the small circle was identical to that of the habituation event. `¯ying' just over the column.8 s). 3 we removed this initial movement circle: the large circle appeared at the left side of the screen from the beginning and remained stationary throughout the events.e. or large (13. All subjects were healthy. 2. During the test events. The event started 1.8 cm high) (see Fig. it entered from the right side. 4.2 cm diameter) was . range 35. i. Csibra et al. being either small (4. Expt. nor the contingent reactivity account would predict that the small circle would be categorised as an agent.1.G. or too short looking times (see Section 2. In the habituation event (Fig.1.

1 cm/s.3. / Cognition 72 (1999) 237±267 Fig. was not signi®cant. 4.6 s. 4. 0:001 in both cases. Apparatus The infants sat in their parent's lap in a darkened experimental room looking at a 29 £ 38 cm size computer monitor placed at eye level from a distance of 1. the rectangular ®gure (3 cm wide) was dark blue. The stimulus events in Expt. P . A signi®cant experiment £ age group interaction showed that the inter-study difference between the average looking times for the last three habituation trials .256 G. 72† ˆ 12:16. 72† ˆ 19:96 and F …1. 4.1. 2 with the only difference that here we required a minimum of not 4 but only 3 s ®xation during the test trials.2 s break the event was started again. Procedure The procedure was same as in Expt. two-way ANOVAs (experiment £ age group) revealed that the average looking times for both the ®rst and the last three trials were shorter in the present experiment than they were in the Experimental groups of Expt. The horizontal velocity of the small circle's motion was 28. Csibra et al.4 m. while the background was light green in all events. the ®gures disappeared from the screen and after a 1. Thus. yellow.5 trials) and we did not ®nd any age differences as a function of the number of trials needed to meet the habituation criterion. 4. The habituation and the test events lasted for 3. respectively. When an event ended. Results The average looking times are summarised in Table 1. however.2.1.4. 3 seemed less engaged during the habituation phase than the infants in the earlier experiments as shown by the fact that the looking times were shorter in this study than those in the earlier ones. Furthermore. A video camera focusing on the subject's face was mounted above the monitor peeping through the opening of a black curtain. As Table 1 shows. 3. Most of the subjects completed the habituation phase in the minimal number of 6 trials (the average was 6. the infants in Expt. This difference. This allowed the experimenter to monitor the subject's eye ®xations on a TV monitor. 2: F …1.2±1. the 9-month-old subjects tended to look longer at the habituation events than did the 12-month-olds.

This pattern shows that the difference in looking times for the two event types was higher in the ®rst presentation position in both Expt. unlike in Expt. P . indicating that the looking times tended to be longer in subjects who saw the old action test event ®rst. P . this analysis resulted in a three-way interaction (F …1. new) was the within-subject factor and age group (9. we compared the looking times of the two subgroups of presentation order in the ®rst test event.6 s) than that of Expt. Csibra et al.7. A similar pattern of results emerged from the non-parametric tests. 2 and Expt.5 events by the 12-month-olds during the ®rst three habituation trials.vs. it was statistically reliable in the ®rst presentation position. 72† ˆ 4:51 and 4. 2. 36† ˆ 8:23.7 events in Expt. 12-month-olds) and order of test events (new ®rst vs. Therefore. 0:02. 3 were 16. 2. 5 presents the pattern of looking times which gave rise to these effects. 2 . 2. Finally.56. 0:05). 0:01) as well.7 and 5. 2 The looking times during the test phase were ®rst analysed by a three-way ANOVA. / Cognition 72 (1999) 237±267 257 was larger for the 12-month-olds than for the 9-month-olds: F …1.G. 36† ˆ 8:24. Fig. 0:005. 18† ˆ 6:59. 36† ˆ 6:38. while the corresponding ®gures were 3.9 and 13.9 events were seen by the 9-month-olds and an average of 22. respectively. 36† ˆ 5:55. 18† ˆ 7:17. Among the 12To check whether these effects were simply due to the fact that the habituation event in the present experiment was shorter (3. To check whether the effect of event type was statistically signi®cant at the ®rst presentation position in 9-month-olds. P . P . old ®rst) were the between-subject factors. 72† ˆ 9:78. respectively. It also revealed a main effect of age group (F …1. P . P . indicating that the old action event elicited longer looking times than the new action event. 0:05) showing that 12-month-olds looked longer at the test events and a main effect of presentation order (F …1. 2 (4. The ANOVA showed that both the main effect of experiment and its interaction with age group were signi®cant: F …1. 0:05) and a marginally signi®cant interaction with event type (F …1. A two-way (event type £ order) ANOVA for the 12-month-olds resulted only in a main effect of event type: F …1. P . P . Note that the results of the 12-month-olds' also showed a higher difference between the event types in the ®rst presentation position: t…18† ˆ 3:40. In a twoway ANOVA only the main effect of experiment was signi®cant: F …1. 2 an average of 19. P . A similar ANOVA on the 9month-olds' data revealed a main effect of presentation order (F …1. 0:05 in both cases. This analysis yielded a strong effect of event type (F …1. 3. The corresponding t-test indicates that the infants who saw the old action event ®rst looked signi®cantly longer at it than the infants who saw the new event ®rst after habituation (t…18† ˆ 2:08.and 12-month-olds saw an average of 4. 0:05. 0:05). 18† ˆ 4:25. in which the event type (old vs. we separated the two age groups in the subsequent analyses. 0:01). in Expt. These results con®rm that the subjects were less engaged during the habituation events in the present experiment than were the subjects in Expt. 72† ˆ 4:59. we repeated the above analyses on the average number of habituation events seen by the subjects with the assumption that the total length of the lookaway periods was proportional to the looking time in the habituation phase. respectively. 3 the statistical effect of event type was overcome by the order effect. 3. 0:01.7 events. P . In the last three habituation trials 9.7 and 5. However.5 s). P . P . in Expt. and this effect was larger for the 12-month-olds than for the 9-month-olds. In Expt. 0:06). This result makes clear that although the looking time difference in the two event types did not reach overall statistical signi®cance. The corresponding numbers in Expt.

than to the unfamiliar test event (new action) which. 0:05) looked longer at the old action than at the new action test event. This rules out the alternative account of our ®ndings in terms of a generalisation effect which might have attributed the positive results of Expt. the results also rule out the other alternative account of our ®ndings in terms of contingent reactivity. could be interpreted as a rational action towards the goal state. 5. Discussion The results of Expt.and 12-month-olds displayed more recovery of attention to the familiar test event (old action). self-moving object. 2 to the presence of another.s. month-old infants. in contrast. 2. n. 2 has been replicated in this modi®ed version as well even though none of the objects in the scene exhibited movement cues of agency. The removal of the initial movement of the large circle did change the subjects' looking pattern though. is not unexpected considering the fact that the habituation displays in Expt. / Cognition 72 (1999) 237±267 Fig. Thus. since the behaviour of the goal-approaching small circle in Expt.3. 2. Furthermore.). P . 3 con®rmed the conclusion we drew from Expt. however. The corresponding proportion among the 9-month-olds was 12 of 20 (60%. the former could not have become categorised as an intentional agent based on perceived contingent reactivity. while in the other group the distribution did not deviate signi®cantly from chance. which could not be justi®ed as a rational goal-approach in the new situation. 2 and 3 as a function of event type and order of presentation. Csibra et al. Apparently. Mean looking times (and standard errors) of 9-month-old subjects in the test phase of the experimental condition of Expt. 3 involved much less movement (only 22% of the duration of the stimulus event) as compared to the . 3 was not contingently related to that of the target object (which remained stationary throughout). 15 of the 20 (75%. Therefore. 0:02). Both 9. Further sign-tests showed that in the old-action-®rst group the proportion of subjects looking longer at the old action event was signi®cantly higher than chance (P . The overall reduction of looking times. the pattern of results found in Expt. they were much less interested in the habituation trials than were the subjects in Expt. 4. this difference being especially large in the 12-month-olds.258 G.

While we agree that this may be the case. the infant will still attempt to interpret the object's behaviour teleologically. we simply do not know from our data whether our subjects made any effort to attribute a causal source for the event. Below we shall consider two objections or alternative interpretations that we anticipate. The lower degree of engagement in the less interesting stimuli may help explain why the 9-month-olds failed to show an overall within-subject effect of event type: as only the subjects in the old-action-®rst subgroup responded differentially to the two test events. the 12-month-old infants did show a robust effect of event type in spite the fact that they were also less engaged in the habituation phase. indeed. it should be kept in mind that what our study was designed to test is not that teleological interpretation can take place without agency-attribution. However. to the next test event. note that the upward movement of the object is still ambiguous as it could equally be the result of self-propulsion or be brought about by the external force impact from another agent outside the screen. In fact. it would cue the infant to attribute an agentive causal source of energy to account for it. Of course. 0:05] demonstrating that they detected the incompatibility between the old action and the new situation. First. as such. the 9-montholds. Csibra et al. P . will always assign to any movement (even if by default) some causal agent as its source (whether internal or external). though the pattern of looking times in the two age groups was different in Expt. 3. who were presented with the old action test event ®rst. P . their looking times during the test phase was comparable in magnitude to those found in Expt. / Cognition 72 (1999) 237±267 259 habituation stimuli of Expt. In sum. However. Instead. This ®nding gives further support to our hypothesis that the cue-based attribution of physical or intentional agency to the acting object is not a necessary precondition for triggering the interpretation of its behaviour in teleological terms. 0:4). In fact. did dishabituate [t…9† ˆ 2:42. both age groups showed evidence that they found the new action more compatible than the old action with the interpretation of the habituation events. and so there would be no teleological interpretation of behaviour without agency attribution. The infants who following habituation were presented with the new action test event ®rst may have perceived it as fully congruent with their previously established interpretation of the habituation event and for that reason they may have paid very little attention to it or. showing no dishabituation at all. it could be argued that infants. 2 (where 49% of the stimulus event contained movement). Note that while we have evidence for such a psychological interpretation. our experiments test and refute the claim that the perception of behavioural cues of . this interpretation of our ®ndings could still be challenged on other grounds. In contrast. Unlike the 9-month-olds.G. it could be argued that the rising trajectory of the small circle entering the screen suggests anti-gravitational movement and. this is precisely the point we are making: even in cases where the observed movement of an object does not allow for an unambiguous identi®cation of its causal source. 2 (see Table 1) which seems to indicate that they explored the behaviour of the small circle in the new situation quite thoroughly. believing in causal determinism. This interpretation is supported by the fact that their looking time to the ®rst test event did not differ signi®cantly from the habituation criterion [t…9† ˆ 0:74.

while. we have shown that the detection of agency is insuf®cient to trigger the attribution of intention or goal to the object (see Gergely et al. inferring goals and evaluating the rationality of action have been demonstrated to take place even in the absence of movement cues indicating agency or animacy (Expts. 1998) or as mechanical agents (Leslie. 1994). while the detection of self-propulsion may indeed be interpreted by the infant's naive theory of physics as indicating mechanical agency (Leslie. Csibra et al. our results would become readily explicable: the default interpretation would categorise the object as an agent. for an opposite ®nding in monkeys). 5. in fact. Second. First. we know of no evidence that would support the notion that the perceptual system must decide (even when lacking evidence) whether the observed behaviour has an internal or external causal source. on the one hand. 1992. We. 1995. some may want to save the intuitive view that detecting an internal causal source of behaviour is a precondition for the attribution of goal or intentionality by insisting that when the available movement cues do not specify unambiguously the causal source. Therefore. 1998. 1998) seem to support this claim (but see Hauser. 1). moving out of occlusion) is always self-propelled (and therefore intentional) would produce many false positive interpretations often resulting in mistaken inferences. 1994). to assume that source-ambiguous movement (e. General discussion The three studies presented here may bring us closer to answering one of the central questions of the domain-speci®city approach in cognitive development . the categorisation of objects as physical agents is not hierarchically related to the infant's naive psychological theory (as was proposed by Leslie's tripartite theory of agency). why would the default interpretation specify an internal causal source rather than an external one? Clearly. even if this were the case.g. We remain unimpressed by such a proposal which seems to us a rather ad hoc attempt to save the above intuitive view in the face of our result. We also agree that self-propulsion (together with other movement cues) might form the perceptual basis for categorising objects as animates (Mandler. / Cognition 72 (1999) 237±267 agency (such as self-propulsion) is a necessary condition for the interpretational processes of goal-assignment. believe it is most likely that they do so and preliminary results from other laboratories (Kaufman. and Expt. 2 and 3).. Assuming such a default option. however. the perceptual system falls back on a default interpretation that speci®es the causal source as internal (and so the behaviour as self-propelled). which would in turn trigger the analysis of its behaviour in terms of goals or intentions. on the other hand. is that teleological interpretations are not contingent upon the detection of self-initiated movement or the categorisation of objects as animates or physical agents. The point we do wish to make.260 G. Second. We would like to make it clear that our point is not that 9. Thus.and 12-month-olds cannot differentiate self-initiated movement. since the domain-speci®c inferences (such as goal attribution) that are based on the principles of naive psychology are not driven by the detection of agency.

1994. While it is.. Leslie. 1990. 1995a. as our data from 9. BaronCohen. how do people decide which domain-speci®c principles (say. the perception of self-propulsion is not a hard-wired precondition for triggering a psychological analysis of behaviour. of naive physics vs. In this view. based on their growing experience young children will soon learn to associate agency cues with intentional action. In so far as they do so. naive psychology) to apply when interpreting the observed behaviour of an object? Recently. animates (Mandler. but is based on learning about the robust statistical association that exists between physical agency and goal-directed behaviour in the world. or as intentional (Premack. Premack & Premack. principle-based model within the domain of naive psychology. / Cognition 72 (1999) 237±267 261 which concerns the nature of our understanding of the ontological boundaries of a given domain. 1995. This conclusion contradicts previous proposals according to which objects ®rst have to be perceptually categorised as persons (Meltzoff. Mandler. perhaps not in mentalistic terms. 1992). Gergely et al. it seems that the teleological interpretation of behaviour is not restricted by the output of such processes. 1994. however. 1995). or agents (Premack. Although. see Csibra & Gergely. the perception of self-initiated movement may come to function as a . 1992.and 12-month-olds suggest. 1998) and do so without any a priori ontological commitment concerning the types of objects which exhibit those behaviours. 1998). 1995) agents based on movement cues picked up by innate perceptual modules. in other words. Csibra et al. The current studies provide support for the latter. a cue-based perceptual identi®cation of an object as belonging to a given domain is a precondition for applying domain-speci®c principles of reasoning to interpret its behaviour. rather. According to one alternative the entities belonging to a domain are selected by perceptual processes that are sensitive to featural or behavioural properties that are characteristic of the ontological class in question. it is identi®ed by the successful applicability of the principles of reasoning speci®c to the domain (cf Keil. possible that from very early on (and maybe on an innate basis) objects are perceptually categorised as persons based on featural or biomechanical movement cues (Meltzoff. 1994. 1994. This conclusion might. Baron-Cohen. We suggest. They demonstrate that as early as 9 months of age infants can apply a psychological interpretational system which represents the observed behaviour of objects in teleological terms (though. or. more profound capacities (such as having intentions) and it is exactly these capacities that give them the power to pursue goals. of course. at ®rst. 1994).b) or mechanical (Leslie. or as animates based on perceptual analysis (Mandler. 1995) before their behaviour can be interpreted in terms of goals. 1995). 1995. How do people come to identify the entities that belong to a given domain. 1990. appear counter-intuitive: most of us feel that an object that is moving by itself must possess additional.G. According to the second alternative the scope of a domain is not speci®ed in terms of featural or behavioural properties. Meltzoff & Moore. Carey and Spelke (1994) provided an insightful analysis of this problem and identi®ed two alternative models for how domainspeci®c perception and domain-speci®c reasoning may be related in a given domain. that our adult intuitions about an inherent link between agentive movement and intentionality may not re¯ect a pre-wired structural connection within our innate theory of mind. 1992. Meltzoff & Moore.

1996). When one takes a closer look at the available developmental evidence on the relation between perceiving self-initiated movement of and attributing intentional properties to an object. Both 9. Poulin-Dubois & Shultz. too. most existing studies applied the latter option. (1996) carried out three experiments in which infants observed either a robot or a human being that was either stationary or moved independently. they would have categorised the independently moving robot as animate and the stationary person as inanimate. and the result teaches us nothing about the question of whether motion cues serve as the basis for applying the principles that are unique to the domain of naive psychology. This result indicates that the subjects differentiated between persons and inanimate objects and knew that humans but not inanimate objects are capable of independent movement. This is so because the study demonstrates no inference (e. PoulinDubois et al. attributing a goal or intention) that is based on such principles. and so they would not have detected any incongruence. The role of self-propelled movement in categorising and reasoning about objects can be studied in two different ways depending on whether self-motion is examined as an independent or as a dependent variable. as our results demonstrate.262 G. Poulin-Dubois. apart from the present studies there have been no attempts .and 12-month-old infants displayed more signs of negative affect when experiencing incongruence between object type and movement type.g. Carlson & Sexton 1984. Although the authors concluded that the `results suggest that infants discriminate animate from inanimate objects on the basis of motion cues' (p. Woodward. However. inanimate preceded the evaluation of motion information and was based on features other than motion. what their results really demonstrate is that the categorisation of the objects as animate vs. but showed no differential reaction when a person began to move either spontaneously or after having been pushed by another person. Surprisingly. Harding. 1990. For example. the categorisation of the objects was based on features other than movement cues. i. we have to follow the opposite direction and use motion cues as independent variables to examine what effects they have on children's interpretations of the behaviour of objects (as measured by some dependent variable). Had the subjects based their classi®cation of animacy on movement cues. (1993) found that 7-month-old infants were surprised when seeing an inanimate physical object starting to move without an external impact acting on it.e. they used some categorical feature of objects as the independent variable and examined whether or not infants expected self-initiated movement of the object as a function of the presence of the feature in question (Golinkoff. In another study. Phillips & Spelke 1993. Csibra et al. In order to assess the role that motion cues may play in infants' attribution of psychological properties to objects. Woodward et al. in these studies. Interestingly. Lepage & Ferland. in the initial state of the infant's naive psychological theory the `pure reason' manifest in certain patterns of behaviour can be apprehended in a form that is as yet `uncontaminated' by the associations established later in development. However. 19). / Cognition 72 (1999) 237±267 useful predictive cue generating statistically based expectations that an agent will engage in goal-directed actions (and show other aspects of intentional agency). our position seems corroborated.

208. In fact. 739) (!). p. While his older 3-year-old subjects indeed showed a tendency to constrain their attributions of causal intention by the presence of cues of action initiation (self-initiated vs. it is questionable whether assigning intentionality to selfpropelled objects in a mandatory and modular manner (Premack. it seems that the available developmental evidence is either irrelevant to. studies of this kind reported with older children and.) (see Gergely & Csibra. Premack and Premack interpret a study by Smith (1978) in this way: `Children denied intention to only one kind of action. `. does not seem to be true of Smith's youngest subjects: although the 4-year-old group of children attributed less intentionality to non-self-propelled (`object-like') actions than to self-propelled ones. 1995b. that which was not selfpropelled. younger 3-yearolds applied mentalistic explanations as readily for an action launched by an external agent as they did when the observed person started to move on his/her own. Recently.. In sum. through applying the core principle of rational .2 years) attributed equal amount of intentionality to (self-) moving as to stationary objects. Our results from 9. 1994. while the older children were more inclined to give intentional interpretation to moving objects. A similar developmental pattern was observed by Bolivar and Barresi (1995). Also. / Cognition 72 (1999) 237±267 263 that we know of to apply this kind of research strategy to infants. this ®nding does not seem to support the view that the link between self-initiated movement and intentionality is hard-wired.. or contradicts the view that in infancy and early childhood movement cues such as self-propulsion are necessary for interpreting behaviour in terms of a naive psychological theory.. in fact.' (Premack & Premack. 1978. Smith's results seem to indicate that a strong association between self-propelled movement and intentionality of behaviour becomes dominant only later in development. for more detailed arguments along this line). their results are often cited as evidence supporting the claim that self-initiated movement is at the core of the child's (innate) conception of intentionality. There have been.G. Montgomery (1996) provided an even more direct demonstration that young children do not start with an assumption of a ®xed link between self-initiated movement and intention. Csibra et al. however. 1990. Thus. 1978). This claim. however. the authors' emphasis). They presented animated events to their subjects and found that their youngest age group (the mean age was 7. For example. These young children seemed to assume the `goal of an outcome to be revealed merely by the nature of the outcome' (p. BaronCohen. the 4year-olds interpreted the majority (65%) of the non-self-propelled movements as intentional in that study (see Table 1 in Smith. On the contrary. etc. externally induced movement). since intention is certainly not denied from non-selfpropelled actions at 4 years of age and this kind of response becomes characteristic only in school age children. objects moving out of occlusion. dropping faucets.. 487). the object-like movements were also generally judged as intentional' (Smith. p. 1994) would be a truly functional evolutionary adaptation as it would ¯ood our perceptual system with false positives (such as falling leaves.and 12-month-olds indicate that in its initial state the infant's naive psychological theory acts as a rather general interpretational strategy which.

our evidence would be more appropriately captured by some simpler notion of `ef®ciency' that is restricted to the domain of physical reality. if a blind person makes a detour to get to the door walking around a table that unbeknownst to him/her has been removed from the room. however. although infants do not need perceptual evidence about the causal source of behaviour to interpret it as a goal-directed action. to trigger the search for a teleological interpretation that is justi®able on the basis of the principle of rational action. indeed.264 G. the perception of behavioural adjustment that is a function of situational constraints may serve as the triggering condition for analysing the behaviour as goal-directed. it may be seen as a principle-driven cue that triggers the teleological analysis of behaviour. that the presence of this cue is not suf®cient in itself for teleological interpretation to occur. indeed. his/her action can be seen as . In Expt. in turn. We suggest that instead of relying on cues which belong to a separate domain (such as the agency cues that are part of our understanding of the physical world). 2 and 3 the height of the parabolic path was contingently varied in relation to the changing height of the obstacle. Another objection that could be raised against our interpretation may question the appropriateness of calling the inferential principle of teleological interpretation `the principle of rational action' on the grounds that the term `rationality' implies and should be reserved for the domain of intentional mental representations. Mandler (1992) suggested that the detection of such contingencies between perceived events might serve as a cue for animacy (see also Gelman. can interpret behaviour teleologically irrespective of the nature of the causal source of energy (internally vs. Consequently. provide such contingency cues in our studies: In Expts. / Cognition 72 (1999) 237±267 action. Note. Whether or not the detection of such contingent variation. In this view. be triggered by a lower level cue: the presence of contingent variation between the behaviour and changing aspects of the environment. externally induced movement) that drives the action. In sum. 2. since contingent adjustment of behaviour is implied by the principle of rational action. teleological interpretation is driven by stimulus conditions that can be derived directly from the core principle of reasoning of the domain of naive psychology. In fact. such as contingency information. they seem to rely on other cues. We did. This conclusion raises the question of what stimulus conditions trigger the teleological interpretational system if the presence of agency cues is not an obligatory precondition. we agree that the evaluation of spatial goal approach at the end of the ®rst year demonstrated by our studies is restricted to judgements about the physical ef®ciency of goaldirected behaviour. Csibra et al. (Thus. the same contingency that was associated with goal-attribution in the experimental condition remained teleologically uninterpretable in the control condition where the rationality requirement was not ful®lled. The detection of such behavioural adjustments might. The principle of rational action requires that behaviours directed to the same goal be adjusted in relation to the relevant aspects of the environment in which they occur. We also realise that in the realm of intentional mental representations a goal-directed action that is judged most rational may fail to correspond to the physically most ef®cient way of bringing about the goal state. leads to this categorisation is beyond the scope of this paper. Durgin & Kaufman 1995). Nevertheless.

rationality will always coincide with physical ef®ciency. in our view the young child moves from the teleological stance to the level of intentional mentalistic explanations not by applying a different principle of reasoning. for a more detailed justi®cation of this approach). mental) states of reality as well (see Csibra & Gergely. such ®nalistic or teleological explanations can be viewed to re¯ect the primary application of a functionalist interpretational system that we call the `teleological stance' (cf. Suzie Johnson.and 8-month-old infants.e. Rather. 1 and 2. but by extending the domain over which the (very same) inferential principle is applied: i. Josef Perner. on the other. Keil. References Baillargeon. within the restricted domain of the teleological stance. 1944) may not be due to an overextension of an (originally more restricted) psychological interpretational framework to inanimate objects exhibiting human-like or agentive features or behavioural cues. Thus. by coming to include in the domain representations of ®ctional (i. John S. Representing the existence and the location of hidden objects: Object permanence in 6.) One could. rationality) for teleological interpretations of physical goal approach. Acknowledgements This research was supported by the UK Medical Research Council and by grant #T013613 from the National Research Foundation of Hungary (OTKA). It is for this reason that we propose the alternative solution according to which the abstract core principle of reasoning is actually identical at both levels.G. but infants at the end of their ®rst year can only apply it over a much more restricted ontological domain that involves representations of physical reality only. (1986). 23. Heider & Simmel. In conclusion: We have demonstrated that 9. In our view the disadvantage of this solution is that it fails to capture the theoretically important fact that the type of explanatory inference involved in the two cases is identical in so far as they both involve a teleological justi®cation of action in relation to its outcome. and for intentional mentalistic explanations of actions. Jean Mandler. A further implication of these results is that our tendency to apply psychological explanations to non-human phenomena (see Piaget. of course.e. Cognition. Watson and two anonymous Pennington. . Csibra et al. 21±41. 1929. on the one hand.and 12-month-old infants can interpret the behaviour of a computer-animated object as a goal-directed action and can do so even when perceptual information about the causal source of the object's movement is not present. We thank  jva  bor U  ri for his help in programming the animations used in Expts. We Ga  e Baillargeon. As a result. 1998. / Cognition 72 (1999) 237±267 265 rational even though it is not the most ef®cient goal approach in the physical world. capture this difference by postulating separate and independent principles of reasoning (those of ef®ciency vs. Szabolcs Kiss. Bruce also thank Rene  h. 1994). R. Csaba Ple reviewers for their valuable comments on earlier versions of this paper.

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