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Dev Psychol. 2006 Nov;42(6):1103-15.

Blickets and babies: the development of causal reasoning in toddlers and infants.

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Department of Cognitive and Linguistic Sciences, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912, USA.


Previous research has suggested that preschoolers possess a cognitive system that allows them to construct an abstract, coherent representation of causal relations among events. Such a system lets children reason retrospectively when they observe ambiguous data in a rational manner (e.g., D. M. Sobel, J. B. Tenenbaum, & A. Gopnik, 2004). However, there is little evidence that demonstrates whether younger children possess similar inferential abilities. In Experiment 1, the authors extended previous findings with older children to examine 19- and 24-month-olds' causal inferences. Twenty-four-month-olds' inferences were similar to those of preschoolers, but younger children lacked the ability to make retrospective causal inferences, perhaps because of performance limitations. In Experiment 2, the authors designed an eye-tracking paradigm to test younger participants that eliminated various manual search demands. Eight-month-olds' anticipatory eye movements, in response to retrospective data, revealed inferences similar to those of 24-month-olds in Experiment 1 and preschoolers in previous research. These data are discussed in terms of associative reasoning and causal inference.

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