Predictive action in infancy: tracking and reaching for moving objects

Cognition. 1998 Jul 15;67(3):255-85. doi: 10.1016/s0010-0277(98)00029-8.


Because action plans must anticipate the states of the world which will be obtained when the actions take place, effective actions depend on predictions. The present experiments begin to explore the principles underlying early-developing predictions of object motion, by focusing on 6-month-old infants' head tracking and reaching for moving objects. Infants were presented with an object that moved into reaching space on four trajectories: two linear trajectories that intersected at the center of a display and two trajectories containing a sudden turn at the point of intersection. In two studies, infants' tracking and reaching provided evidence for an extrapolation of the object motion on linear paths, in accord with the principle of inertia. This tendency was remarkably resistant to counter-evidence, for it was observed even after repeated presentations of an object that violated the principle of inertia by spontaneously stopping and then moving in a new direction. In contrast to the present findings, infants fail to extrapolate linear object motion in preferential looking experiments, suggesting that early-developing knowledge of object motion, like mature knowledge, is embedded in multiple systems of representation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Child Development / physiology*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Data Collection
  • Eye Movements / physiology*
  • Female
  • Hand / physiology
  • Head Movements / physiology
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Learning
  • Male
  • Mental Processes / physiology
  • Models, Neurological
  • Motion
  • Movement / physiology
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Reference Values
  • Regression Analysis