Young infants' expectations about self-propelled objects

Renée Baillargeon, Di Wu, Sylvia Yuan, Jie Li, Yuyan Luo

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Young infants possess expectations about physical events. These findings support the notion that infants are born with an abstract, unconscious, physical-reasoning system. This chapter has two sections - a summary of results from experiments that compared the response of infants to various physical events involving an inert or a self-propelled object; and a discussion on the considered links between the concept of self-propelled objects explored in this chapter and other key concepts. This chapter suggests three conclusions: infants distinguish between inert and self-propelled objects and endow selfpropelled objects with an internal source of energy; infants do not view an object as selfpropelled unless it provides unambiguous evidence that it can act intentionally and thus has mental states; and the infants' concepts of self-propelled object and agent function as abstract 'kinds of explanations' that are devoid of all mechanistic details but still make possible rich inferences about objects' actions in new contexts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Origins of Object Knowledge
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780191696039
ISBN (Print)9780199216895
StatePublished - Mar 22 2012


  • Expectations
  • Inert objects
  • Kinds of explanations
  • Self-propelled objects
  • Young infants

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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