Babies see human hand behind ordered events

Experiments find that infants attribute actions to people

4:18pm, March 15, 2010

BALTIMORE — Just like adults, babies regard recurring patterns or events as the products of intentional human actions, researchers reported March 12 at the International Conference on Infant Studies.

This early tendency to assume that any order one sees must have been created on purpose gets amplified with age, said psychologist Lili Ma of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. “Adults in many cultures infer rational agents, such as gods, from regularities that they see in nature.”

In a series of experiments, 9- to 10-month-olds first saw that either a mechanical claw or an adult’s hand could pick up yellow and red pingpong balls and drop them into a clear container. Then infants watched nine balls roll down a chute, one at time, into a transparent tube without knowing whether a person or the claw had inserted them.

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