Infants reason about functional information embedded in means-end sequences

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Tzelnic, Tania
Means-end sequences , tool-use , infants
For young infants, knowledge of physical objects and animate agents seems highly rigid, with no information combined across domains. Adult cognition, however, is more flexible. In this thesis, I use a special category of object—a tool—that can only be reasoned about appropriately if information is combined across domains. Using this special case, I examine whether older infants are capable of integrating functional information about the tool while making inferences about the intent of the tool-user. Experiment 1 shows that infants can reason about complex means-end sequences involving tools; and Experiments 2 and 3 both show that under some circumstances, infants can take into account functional information about the tool when making these sorts of inferences. Together, these studies extend previous findings about how infants understand complex means-end sequences, and demonstrate that by 13 months, infants are already combining knowledge across domains.
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