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Creators/Authors contains: "Spelke, Elizabeth S."

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  1. 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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  2. 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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  3. Abstract

    Research in developmental cognitive science reveals that human infants perceive shape changes in 2D visual forms that are repeatedly presented over long durations. Nevertheless, infants’ sensitivity to shape under the brief conditions of natural viewing has been little studied. Three experiments tested for this sensitivity by presenting 128 seven‐month‐old infants with shapes for the briefer durations under which they might see them in dynamic scenes. The experiments probed infants’ sensitivity to two fundamental geometric properties of scale‐ and orientation‐invariant shape:relative lengthandangle.Infants detected shape changes in closed figures, which presented changes in both geometric properties. Infants also detected shape changes in open figures differing in angle when figures were presented at limited orientations. In contrast, when open figures were presented at unlimited orientations, infants detected changes in relative length but not in angle. The present research therefore suggests that, as infants look around at the cluttered and changing visual world, relative length is the primary geometric property by which they perceive scale‐ and orientation‐invariant shape.

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