Goal Directedness and Decision Making in Infants

  • Kenward B
  • Folke S
  • Holmberg J
 et al. 
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The term goal directed conventionally refers to either of 2 separate process types-motor processes organizing action oriented toward physical targets and decision-making processes that select these targets by integrating desire for and knowledge of action outcomes. Even newborns are goal directed in the first sense, but the status of infants as decision makers (the focus here) is unknown. In this study, 24-month-olds learned to retrieve an object from a box by pressing a button, and then the object's value was increased. After the object's subsequent disappearance, these children were more likely to press the button to try to retrieve the object than were control 24-month-olds who had learned to retrieve the object but for whom the object's value was unchanged. Such sensitivity to outcome value when selecting actions is a hallmark of decision making. However, 14- and 19-month-olds showed no such sensitivity. Possible explanations include that they had not learned the specifics of the action outcome; they had not acquired the necessary desire; or they had acquired both but did not integrate them to make a decision.

Author-supplied keywords

  • decision making
  • goal-directed action
  • infants
  • motivation
  • young children

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  • Ben Kenward

  • Sara Folke

  • Jacob Holmberg

  • Alexandra Johansson

  • Gustaf Gredebäck

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