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A Puzzle About Goal Tracking

Kanakogi and Itakura, 2011 figure 1C (part)

Earlier I mentioned this experiment, which shows that infants fail to track goals involving things which would appear to them to be biomechanically non-agent-like events. But ...
\#source 'research/teleological stance -- csibra and gergely.doc'
\#source 'lectures/mindreading and joint action - philosophical tools (ceu budapest 2012-autumn fall)/lecture05 actions intentions goals'
\#source 'lectures/mindreading and joint action - philosophical tools (ceu budapest 2012-autumn fall)/lecture06 goal ascription teleological motor'
When do human infants first track goal-directed actions and not just movements?
Here's a classic experiment from way back in 1995.
The subjects were 12 month old infants.
They were habituated to this sequence of events.
There was also a control group who were habituated to a display like this one but with the central barrier moved to the right, so that the action of the ball is 'non-rational'.

Gergely et al 1995, figure 1

For the test condition, infants were divided into two groups. One saw a new action, ...
... the other saw an old action.
Now if infants were considering the movements only and ignoring information about the goal, the 'new action' (movement in a straight line) should be more interesting because it is most different.
But if infants are taking goal-related information into action, the 'old action' might be unexpected and so might generate greater dishabituation.

Gergely et al 1995, figure 3

Gergely et al 1995, figure 5

‘by the end of the first year infants are indeed capable of taking the intentional stance (Dennett, 1987) in interpreting the goal- directed behavior of rational agents.’
\citep[p.\ 184]{Gergely:1995sq}
‘12-month-old babies could identify the agent’s goal and analyze its actions causally in relation to it’
\citep[p.\ 190]{Gergely:1995sq}
You might say, it's bizarre to have used balls in this study, that can't show us anything about infants' understanding of action.
But adult humans naturally interpret the movements of even very simple shapes in terms of goals.
So using even very simple stimuli doesn't undermine the interpretation of these results.

Heider and Simmel, figure 1

Consider a further experiment by \citet{Csibra:2003jv}, also with 12-month-olds. This is just like the first ball-jumping experiment except that here infants see the action but not the circumstances in which it occurs. Do they expect there to be an object in the way behind that barrier?

Csibra et al 2003, figure 6

Here then is the puzzle about development that I mentioned this talk was about:


In infants under 10 months,
it appears that
but not all,
goal-tracking is limited by their abilities to act.

Let me recap how we got here and why this is puzzling.
I started by asking, How 9-month-olds track can goals? The Simple View offers one answer: the principles comprising the Teleological Stance are things they know or believe, and they are able to track goals by making inferences from these principles.
I suggested that the Simple View should be rejected because it cannot explain why infants’ abilities to track goals are limited by their abilities to perform actions.
At least, mTga provides a better alternative to the Simple View. According to mTga, Infants’ pure goal-tracking depends on the double life of motor processes.
mTga correctly predicts that infants’ pure goal-tracking should be limited by infants’ abilities to act ...
But, unfortunately, there appear to be cases in which infants’ pure goal-tracking is not limited by their abilities to act, and this is contrary to mTga.
The puzzle, then, to explain how infants can track goals if neither the Simple View nor mTga is correct.
Even worse, there’s another, apparently unrelated puzzle to explain too ...

Daum et al, 2012 figure 1

Daum et al created a modified version of Woodward’s paradigm which allowed them to measure both anticipatory looking and dishabituation.
where researchers have measured two different responses to a single scenario, anticipatory looking and either dishabituation or pupil dilation. Generally, they appear to find evidence for goal tracking in dishabituation or pupil dilation but not in anticipatory looking. (This is true of Daum et al, 2012; and Gredeback and Melinder, 2010.)
Why the discrepancy? This is another question we can’t answer with the Motor Theory of Goal Tracking.

Daum et al, 2012 figure 2

[skip -- just here in case need for discussion; shows that anticipatory looking to cartoon fish takes years to develop]
Here then is another puzzle about development:


In infants under 10 months,
it appears that
but not all,
goal-tracking is limited by their abilities to act ...

... and that goal-tracking sometimes manifests in dishabitution or pupil dilation but not proactive gaze.

The \textbf{second puzzle} is how to explain, in a principled way, why there should be discrepancies between these measures. We cannot do this by invoking mTgt because on mTgt, proactive gaze is a case in which goal-tracking is paradigmatically manifest.
I want to respond by arguing that not everything which appears to be goal-tracking in infants actually is goal-tracking.
So the puzzle is merely apparent. The appearance is due to the fact that we do not carefully enough distinguish tracking the target of an action from tracking the goal of an action.