Infants attribute goals even to biomechanically impossible actions

Victoria Southgate, Mark H. Johnson, Gergely Csibra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

62 Citations (Scopus)


Human infants readily interpret the actions of others in terms of goals, but the origins of this important cognitive skill are keenly debated. We tested whether infants recognize others′ actions as goal-directed on the basis of their experience with carrying out and observing goal-directed actions, or whether their perception of a goal-directed action is based on the recognition of a specific event structure. Counterintuitively, but consistent with our prediction, we observed that infants appear to extend goal attribution even to biomechanically impossible actions so long as they are physically efficient, indicating that the notion of 'goal′ is unlikely to be derived directly from infants′ experience.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1059-1069
Number of pages11
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1 2008


  • Biological motion
  • Efficiency
  • Goal attribution
  • Infants

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

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