Babies as young as one can learn to predict the outcome of another person's actions as well as adults can, according to a study in the July issue of Nature Neuroscience. These findings suggest that infants learn to predict the actions of others roughly when they learn to perform those actions themselves.
Terje Falck-Ytter and colleagues tracked the eye movements of babies at 6 months or 12 months and of adults, while the subjects watched video clips of an actor's hand placing toys into a bucket. After repeated presentations of the video, both adults and 12-month-old babies looked at the bucket before the hand reached it, predicting the goal of the movement. In contrast, 6-month olds did not shift gaze to the bucket until the hand had arrived, suggesting that they could not predict the outcome of the action they saw. Infants first learn to perform actions like those presented in the experiment around 7 to 9 months of age, so these results suggest that social cognition may start to develop as early in life as motor skills.
Terje Falck-Ytter (Uppsala University, Sweden)
Abstract available online.
(C) Nature Neuroscience press release.
Message posted by: Trevor M. D'Souza
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