Can a self-propelled box have a goal? - Psychological reasoning in 5-month-old infants

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Some researchers have suggested that infants' ability to reason about goals develops as a result of their experiences with human agents and is then gradually extended to other agents. Other researchers have proposed that goal attribution is rooted in a specialized system of reasoning that is activated whenever infants encounter entities with appropriate features (e.g., self-propulsion). The first view predicts that young infants should attribute goals to human but not other agents; the second view predicts that young infants should attribute goals to both human and nonhuman agents. The present research revealed that 5-month-old infants (the youngest found thus far to attribute goals to human agents) also attribute goals to nonhuman agents. In two experiments, infants interpreted the actions of a self-propelled box as goal-directed. These results provide support for the view that from an early age, infants attribute goals to any entity they identify as an agent.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)601-608
Number of pages8
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2005


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

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