Previous research indicates that infants' prediction of the goals of observed actions is influenced by own experience with the type of agent performing the action (i.e., human hand vs. non-human agent) as well as by action-relevant features of goal objects (e.g., object size). The present study investigated the combined effects of these factors on 12-month-olds' action prediction. Infants' (N=49) goal-directed gaze shifts were recorded as they observed 14 trials in which either a human hand or a mechanical claw reached for a small goal area (low-saliency goal) or a large goal area (high-saliency goal). Only infants who had observed the human hand reaching for a high-saliency goal fixated the goal object ahead of time, and they rapidly learned to predict the action goal across trials. By contrast, infants in all other conditions did not track the observed action in a predictive manner, and their gaze shifts to the action goal did not change systematically across trials. Thus, high-saliency goals seem to boost infants' predictive gaze shifts during the observation of human manual actions, but not of actions performed by a mechanical device. This supports the assumption that infants' action predictions are based on interactive effects of action-relevant object features (e.g., size) and own action experience.
Keywords: Action processing; Anticipatory gaze shifts; Eye tracking; Goal saliency; Infancy.
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