Acting and thinking in infancy


Amanda Woodward

(University of Chicago)

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Date: April 20, 2016


In the study of early cognitive development there is considerable debate not only as to what infants understand, but also how best to characterize the nature of their knowledge. In this talk, I will engage this broad question in considering infants’ knowledge about others’ intentional actions. Drawing on recent findings from our laboratory, I will make two claims (1) Young infants’ analysis of meaningful structure in others’ actions is grounded, to some significant extent, in information derived from their own actions; and (2) This fact does not mean that infants’ understanding of others’ action analysis is concrete, low-level, or cognitively uninteresting. In fact, infants’ action knowledge is cognitively generative. I will review research that illustrates this generativity in the context of infants’ intelligent social behavior, their generalization of learning to new instances, and their memory for events. In each case, our findings suggest not only that infants’ action knowledge provides a foundation for adaptive responding and learning, but also that infants’ engagement in action fuels their thinking.

Created: Saturday, April 23rd, 2016