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Perception. 1982;11(2):173-86.

The perception of causality in infants.


The problem of the origins of the perception of causality in infancy has received relatively little attention in the literature despite its obvious importance. Two experiments with infants 4 1/2 and 8 months old are reported which seek to investigate sensitivity to spatiotemporal continuity in simple causal events with a differential dishabituation-of-looking technique. In the first experiment inanimate events of the familiar 'billiard-ball launching' type were used, while in the second animate events involving a hand/object pick-up were presented. The results suggest that both age groups of infants were sensitive to certain changes in spatiotemporal continuity in both types of event, although in the case of the inanimate stimuli the younger infants reacted less positively. It is suggested that infants in the first year of life are sensitive to certain spatiotemporal event configurations and that this sensitivity could be regarded as at least a required component of a perception of causality.

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