'Obsessed with goals': Functions and mechanisms of teleological interpretation of actions in humans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

219 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Humans show a strong and early inclination to interpret observed behaviours of others as goal-directed actions. We identify two main epistemic functions that this 'teleological obsession' serves: on-line prediction and social learning. We show how teleological action interpretations can serve these functions by drawing on two kinds of inference ('action-to-goal' or 'goal-to-action'), and argue that both types of teleological inference constitute inverse problems that can only be solved by further assumptions. We pinpoint the assumptions that the three currently proposed mechanisms of goal attribution (action-effect associations, simulation procedures, and teleological reasoning) imply, and contrast them with the functions they are supposed to fulfil. We argue that while action-effect associations and simulation procedures are generally well suited to serve on-line action monitoring and prediction, social learning of new means actions and artefact functions requires the inferential productivity of teleological reasoning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)60-78
Number of pages19
JournalActa Psychologica
Volume124
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2007

Fingerprint

Obsessive Behavior
Artifacts
Efficiency
Social Learning
Simulation
Prediction
Inference
Productivity
Artifact
Inverse Problem
Monitoring
Obsessions
Goal Attribution
Inclination

Keywords

  • Goal attribution
  • Infancy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology

Cite this

'Obsessed with goals' : Functions and mechanisms of teleological interpretation of actions in humans. / Csibra, G.; Gergely, Gy.

In: Acta Psychologica, Vol. 124, No. 1, 01.2007, p. 60-78.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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