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Causal LearningPsychology, Philosophy, and Computation$
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Alison Gopnik and Laura Schulz

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780195176803

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195176803.001.0001

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Infants’ Causal Learning

Infants’ Causal Learning

Intervention, Observation, Imitation

Chapter:
(p.37) 2 Infants’ Causal Learning
Source:
Causal Learning
Author(s):

Andrew N. Meltzoff

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195176803.003.0003

This chapter shows that the perception of others' actions and production of self-action are mapped onto commensurate representations starting from birth. This allows infants not only to learn interventions through their own manipulations but also to multiply greatly their learning opportunities by observing the manipulations of others and profiting from them. Infants imitate but do not blindly copy everything they see. First, they make creative errors. Second, they skip over the literal behavior they see and choose to duplicate inferred interventions: what the adult meant to do, not what the adult did do. Third, when causal relations are difficult, as in the rake case for younger infants, observation alone does not seem to guarantee success; older infants glean more from the modeling than do younger ones.

Keywords:   infant imitation, causal learning, self-action, innate mapping, causal relations

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