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J Exp Child Psychol. 2009 May;103(1):87-107. doi: 10.1016/j.jecp.2008.09.003. Epub 2008 Oct 29.

Causal perception of action-and-reaction sequences in 8- to 10-month-olds.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University College London, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT, UK.


Four experiments with 202 8- to 10-month-old infants studied their sensitivity to causation-at-a-distance in schematic events seen as goal-directed action and reaction by adults and whether this depends on attributes associated with animate agents. In Experiment 1, a red square moved toward a blue square without making contact; in "reaction" events blue moved away while red was approaching, whereas in "delay" events blue started after red stopped. Infants were habituated to one event and then tested on its reversal. Spatiotemporal features reversed for both events, but causal roles changed only in reversed reactions. Infants dishabituated more to reversed reaction events than to reversed delay events. Squares moved rigidly or in a nonrigid animal-like fashion. Infants discriminated these, but motion pattern did not affect responses to reversal. Infants also discriminated reactions from launching and dishabituated to reversed reactions lacking self-initiated motion. These results suggest that sensitivity to causation-at-a-distance depends on the event structure but not pattern or onset typical of animal motion.

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