The ability to predict actions of others from distributed cues is still developing in 6- to 8-year-old children

Published Date: 
May 13, 2021

Adults use distributed cues in the bodies of others to predict and counter their actions. To investigate the development of this ability, we had adults and 6- to 8-year-old children play a competitive game with a confederate who reached toward one of two targets. Child and adult participants, who sat across from the confederate, attempted to beat the confederate to the target by touching it before the confederate did. Adults used cues distributed through the head, shoulders, torso, and arms to predict the reaching actions. Children, in contrast, used cues in the arms and torso, but we did not find any evidence that they could use cues in the head or shoulders to predict the actions. These results provide evidence for a change in the ability to respond rapidly to predictive cues to others' actions from childhood to adulthood. Despite humans' sensitivity to action goals even in infancy, the ability to read cues from the body for action prediction in rapid interactive settings is still developing in children as old as 6 to 8 years of age.

Emalie McMahon, Daniel Kim, Samuel A Mehr, Ken Nakayama, Elizabeth S Spelke, Maryam Vaziri-Pashkam