Understanding goal-directed human actions and physical causality: The role of mother-infant interaction

Hohenberger A., Elsabbagh M., Serres J., de Schoenen S., Karmiloff-Smith A., Aschersleben G.

INFANT BEHAVIOR & DEVELOPMENT, vol.35, no.4, pp.898-911, 2012 (SSCI) identifier identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 35 Issue: 4
  • Publication Date: 2012
  • Doi Number: 10.1016/j.infbeh.2012.09.005
  • Journal Indexes: Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), Scopus
  • Page Numbers: pp.898-911
  • Keywords: Human goal-directed action, Physical causality, Mother-infant interaction, CARE-Index, COLLISION EVENTS, PERCEPTION, ATTRIBUTION
  • Middle East Technical University Affiliated: Yes


This study addresses the relation between early cognitive development and mother-infant interaction. Infants at the age of 6 and 10 months recruited from labs in three European countries - Germany, Great Britain, and France - were tested on two cognitive tasks: understanding of goal-directed human action and physical causality. Mother-infant interaction was assessed with the CARE-Index. In the goal-directed action task, the overall sample col the 6-month olds did not yet reliably discriminate between an object-change and a path change trial while a subsample of infants of modestly controlling mothers did. All infants ai 10 months of age showed discrimination. In the physical causality task, the overall sample of the 6-month olds did not yet reliably discriminate between an expected and an unexpected launching event. At 10 months of age, the overall sample showed discrimination due to the major subsample of infants of highly sensitive mothers. Our findings support the view that exogenous factors influence cognitive development within a particular time window, in highly specific ways, depending on the age of the subjects, the cognitive domain and the quality of mother-infant interaction. (C) 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved