Secret agents: inferences about hidden causes by 10- and 12-month-old infants

Psychol Sci. 2005 Dec;16(12):995-1001. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2005.01649.x.


Considerable evidence indicates that preverbal infants expect that only physical contact can cause an inanimate object to move. However, very few studies have investigated infants' expectations about the source of causal power. In three experiments, we found that (a) 10- and 12-month-old infants expect a human hand, and not an inanimate object, to be the primary cause of an inanimate object's motion; (b) infants' expectations can lead them to infer a hidden causal agent without any direct perceptual evidence; and (c) infants do not infer a hidden causal agent if the moving object was previously shown to be capable of self-generated motion.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Behavior
  • Male
  • Motion Perception*
  • Movement
  • Psychology, Child