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01-09-2014 | Review | Uitgave 5/2014

Psychological Research 5/2014

What do infants understand of others’ action? A theoretical account of early social cognition

Tijdschrift:
Psychological Research > Uitgave 5/2014
Auteurs:
Sebo Uithol, Markus Paulus

Abstract

Intention reading and action understanding have been reported in ever-younger infants. However, the notions of intention attribution and action understanding, as well as their relation to each other, are surrounded by much confusion, making it difficult to assess the meaning and value of such findings. In this paper we set out to clarify the notions of ‘action understanding’ and ‘intention attribution’. We will show that what is commonly referred to as ‘action understanding’ in fact encompasses various heterogeneous association and prediction mechanisms. In general, these forms of action understanding will not result in the attribution of an intention to an observed actor. By detaching intention attribution from action understanding, and by exposing the latter as an umbrella notion, we provide a theoretical framework on early social cognition that allows for better comparison of findings from different experimental paradigms, and better assessment of infant action understanding abilities. Taking into account the plurality of forms that action understanding can adopt will help cognitive neuroscience to gain a full understanding of the early roots of social cognition.

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