The social cognition and perception-action literatures are largely separate, both conceptually and empirically. However, both areas of research emphasize infants' emerging abilities to use available information-social and perceptual information, respectively-for making decisions about action. Borrowing methods from both research traditions, this study examined whether 18-month-old infants incorporate both social and perceptual information in their motor decisions. The infants' task was to determine whether to walk down slopes of varying risk levels as their mothers encouraged or discouraged walking. First, a psychophysical procedure was used to determine slopes that were safe, borderline, and risky for individual infants. Next, during a series of test trials, infants received mothers' advice about whether to walk. Infants used social information selectively: They ignored encouraging advice to walk down risky slopes and discouraging advice to avoid safe slopes, but they deferred to mothers' advice at borderline slopes. Findings indicate that 18-month-old infants correctly weigh competing sources of information when making decisions about motor action and that they rely on social information only when perceptual information is inadequate or uncertain.
- infant locomotion
- perceptual exploration
- social cognition
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
- Life-span and Life-course Studies