Abstract

Fawcett, C & Gredebäck, G (2013) Infants use social context to bind actions together into a collaborative sequence Developmental Science, 16, 841-849.



Eye tracking was used to show that 18-month-old infants are sensitive to social context as a sign that others’ actions are bound together as a collaborative sequence based on a joint goal. Infants observed five identical demonstrations in which Actor 1 moves a block to one location and Actor 2 moves the same block to a new location, creating a sequence of actions that could be considered individual actions or a collaboration. In the test phase, Actor 1 is alone and sitting so that she can reach both locations. The question is whether she will place a new block in the location she had previously (individual goal) or in the location that could be considered the goal of a collaboration (joint goal). Importantly, in the Social condition, the actors were socially engaged with each other before and during the demonstration, while in the Non-social condition, they were not. Results revealed that infants in the Social condition spontaneously anticipated Actor 1 placing her block in the joint goal location more often than those in the Non-social condition. Thus, the social context seems to allow infants to bind actions into a collaborative sequence and anticipate joint rather than individual goals, giving insight into how actions are perceived using top-down processing early in life.