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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 1, 2024
  2. Abstract Highlights

    In the present experiments, 3‐month‐old prereaching infants learned to attribute either object goals or place goals to other people's reaching actions.

    Prereaching infants view agents’ actions as goal‐directed, but do not expect these acts to be directed to specific objects, rather than to specific places.

    Prereaching infants are open‐minded about the specific goal states that reaching actions aim to achieve.

     
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  3. Abstract

    When human adults make decisions (e.g., wearing a seat belt), we often consider the negative consequences that would ensue if our actions were to fail, even if we have never experienced such a failure. Do the same considerations guide our understanding of other people's decisions? In this paper, we investigated whether adults, who have many years of experience making such decisions, and 6‐ and 7‐year‐old children, who have less experience and are demonstrably worse at judging the consequences of their own actions, conceive others' actions as motivated both by reward (how good reaching one's intended goal would be), and by what we call “danger” (how badly one's action could end). In two pre‐registered experiments, we tested whether adults and 6‐ and 7‐year‐old children tailor their predictions and explanations of an agent's action choices to the specific degree of danger and reward entailed by each action. Across four different tasks, we found that children and adults expected others to negatively appraise dangerous situations and minimize the danger of their actions. Children's and adults' judgments varied systematically in accord with both the degree of danger the agent faced and the value the agent placed on the goal state it aimed to achieve. However, children did not calibrate their inferences abouthow muchan agent valued the goal state of a successful action in accord with the degree of danger the action entailed, and adults calibrated these inferences more weakly than inferences concerning the agent's future action choices. These results suggest that from childhood, people use a degree of danger and reward to make quantitative, fine‐grained explanations and predictions about other people's behavior, consistent with computational models on theory of mind that contain continuous representations of other agents' action plans.

     
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  4. Abstract

    Human prosocial behaviors are supported by early‐emerging psychological processes that detect and fulfill the needs of others. However, little is known about the mechanisms that enable children to deliver benefits to others at costs to the self, which requires weighing other‐regarding and self‐serving preferences. We used an intertemporal choice paradigm to systematically study and compare these behaviors in 5‐year‐old children. Our results show that other‐benefiting and self‐benefiting behavior share a common decision‐making process that integrates delay and reward. Specifically, we found that children sought to minimize delay and maximize reward, and traded off delays against rewards, regardless of whether these rewards were for the children themselves or another child. However, we found that children were more willing to invest their time to benefit themselves than someone else. Together, these findings show that from childhood, other‐ and self‐serving decisions are supported by a general mechanism that flexibly integrates information about the magnitude of rewards, and the opportunity costs of pursuing them. A video abstract of this article can be viewed at:https://youtu.be/r8S0DGe7f8Q

     
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