The development of infants' sensitivity to behavioral intentions when inferring others' social preferences

Young Eun Lee, Jung Eun Ellie Yun, Eun Young Kim, Hyun Joo Song

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

25 Citations (Scopus)


The present study investigated whether infants reason about others' social preferences based on the intentions of others' interactive actions. In Experiment 1, 12-month-old infants were familiarized with an event in which an agent either successfully helped a circle to climb up a hill (successful-helping condition) or failed to help the circle to achieve its goal (failedhelping condition). During the test, the infants saw the circle approach either the helper (approach-helper event) or the hinderer (approach-hinderer event). In the successful-helping condition, the 12-month-old infants looked for longer at the approach-hinderer event than at the approach-helper event, but in the failed-helping condition, looking times were about equal for the two test events. These results suggest that 12-month-old infants could not infer the circle's preference when the helper's action did not lead to its intended outcome. In Experiment 2, 16-month-olds were tested in the failed-helping condition; they looked longer at the approach-hinderer event than at the approach-helper event, which suggests that they could reason about the third party's social preferences based on the exhibited intentions. In Experiment 3, 12-month-olds were familiarized with events in which the final outcomes of helping and hindering actions were ambiguous. The results revealed that 12-month-old infants are also sensitive to intentions when inferring other's social preferences. The results suggest that by 12-months of age, infants expect an agent to prefer and approach another who intends to help the circle to achieve its goal, regardless of the outcome. The current research has implications for moral reasoning and social evaluation in infancy.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0135588
JournalPloS one
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2015 Sep 18


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General

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