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Emerging perception of causality in action-and-reaction sequences from 4 to 6 months of age: is it domain-specific?

Schlottmann, A; Ray, ED; Surian, L; (2012) Emerging perception of causality in action-and-reaction sequences from 4 to 6 months of age: is it domain-specific? Journal of Experimental Child Psychology , 112 (2) 208 - 230. 10.1016/j.jecp.2011.10.011. Green open access

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Abstract

Two experiments (N=136) studied how 4- to 6-month-olds perceive a simple schematic event, seen as goal-directed action and reaction from 3 years of age. In our causal reaction event, a red square moved toward a blue square, stopping prior to contact. Blue began to move away before red stopped, so that both briefly moved simultaneously at a distance. Primarily, our study sought to determine from what age infants see the causal structure of this reaction event. In addition, we looked at whether this causal percept depends on an animate style of motion and whether it correlates with tasks assessing goal perception and goal-directed action. Infants saw either causal reactions or noncausal delayed control events in which blue started some time after red stopped. These events involved squares that moved either rigidly or nonrigidly in an apparently animate manner. After habituation to one of the four events, infants were tested on reversal of the habituation event. Spatiotemporal features reversed for all events, but causal roles changed only in reversed reactions. The 6-month-olds dishabituated significantly more to reversal of causal reaction events than to noncausal delay events, whereas younger infants reacted similarly to reversal of both. Thus, perceptual causality for reaction events emerges by 6 months of age, a younger age than previously reported but, crucially, the same age at which perceptual causality for launch events has emerged in prior research. On our second question, animate/inanimate motion had no effect at any age, nor did significant correlations emerge with our additional tasks assessing goal perception or goal-directed object retrieval. Available evidence, here and elsewhere, is as compatible with a view that infants initially see A affecting B, without differentiation into physical or psychological causality, as with the standard assumption of distinct physical/psychological causal perception.

Type: Article
Title: Emerging perception of causality in action-and-reaction sequences from 4 to 6 months of age: is it domain-specific?
Location: US
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.jecp.2011.10.011
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jecp.2011.10.011
Language: English
Additional information: This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Keywords: Age Factors, Causality, Child Development, Cognition, Female, Goals, Habituation, Psychophysiologic, Humans, Infant, Male, Social Perception
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Experimental Psychology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1329353
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