Labels facilitate infants' comparison of action goals

Sarah Gerson, Amanda Woodward

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Understanding the actions of others depends on the insight that these actions are structured by intentional relations. In a number of conceptual domains, comparison with familiar instances has been shown to support children's and adults' ability to discern the relational structure of novel instances. Recent evidence suggests that this process supports infants' analysis of others' goal-directed actions (Gerson & Woodward, 2012). The current studies evaluated whether labeling, which has been shown to support relational learning in other domains, also supports infants' sensitivity to the goal structure of others' actions. Ten-month-old infants observed events in which a familiar action, grasping, was aligned (simultaneously presented) with a novel tool-use action, and both actions were accompanied by a matched label. Following this training, infants responded systematically to the goal structure of the tool-use actions in a goal imitation paradigm. In control conditions, when the aligned actions were accompanied by nonword vocalizations, or when labeling occurred without aligned actions, infants did not respond systematically to the tool-use action. These findings indicate that labels supported infants' comparison of the aligned actions, and this comparison facilitated their understanding of the novel action as goal-directed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)197-212
JournalJournal of Cognition and Development
Issue number2
Early online date30 Apr 2014
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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