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Development of Joint Action: Years 1-2

No planning ...

... So which joint actions can one- and two-year-olds perform?

‘By 12–18 months, infants are beginning to participate in a variety of joint actions which show many of the characteristics of adult joint action.’


Carpenter, 2009 p. 388

\citet{carpenter:2009_howjoint} points out that infants in the second year of life can perform a rich array of joint actions. But before we come to her insights, let’s step back and consider the first year.

4-6 months

dyadic interactions

Methods: still face; replay (infants detect whether caregiver reacts, so are less satisifed with a replay).
\citet[p.~196]{brownell:2011_early} comment: ‘infants become progressively tuned to the timing and structure of dyadic exchange’

6-12 months

triadic interactions

\citet[p.~197]{brownell:2011_early} comment: ‘adult-infant dyadic interactions expand to include objects, events, and individuals outside of the dyad (Moore and Dunham 1995)’

~ 12-24 months

infants initiate and re-start joint actions

e.g. ‘peek-a-boo; tickle; rhythmic games; chase’

Brownell, 2011

\citet[p.~197]{brownell:2011_early} comment: ‘Eventually, infants begin themselves to initiate joint action with adults and to respond in unique ways when adults violate their expectations for participation in the joint activity. For example, if a parent becomes distracted during peek-a-boo and fails to take her turn, 12-month olds may try to re-start the game by vocalizing to the adult or by re- enacting a well-rehearsed part of the game such as placing the cloth over their own face and waiting. One-year olds also begin to point to interesting sights and events to share their interest and affect and they expect adults to respond appropriately by looking (Liszkowski, et al 2006).’
‘infants learn about cooperation by participating in joint action structured by skilled and knowledgeable interactive partners before they can represent, understand, or generate it themselves. Cooperative joint action develops in the context of dyadic interaction with adults in which the adult initially takes responsibility for and actively structures the joint activity and the infant progressively comes to master the structure, timing, and communications involved in the joint action with the support and guidance of the adult. ... Eager participants from the beginning, it takes approximately 2 years for infants to become autonomous contributors to sustained, goal-directed joint activity as active, collaborative partners’ \citep[p.~200]{brownell:2011_early}.
‘Without the structure and scaffolding provided by the expert adult partner, 1-year-old children are unable to generate and sustain joint action with each other in the service of an external goal. By age two, however, they can do so readily, even with unfamiliar agemates and on novel, unfamiliar tasks’ \citep[p.~204]{brownell:2011_early}.

drumming together

(from two years of age; Endedijk et al, 2015)

Even the youngest children, 2-year-olds timed the start of a bust of drumming activity to coincide with the start of the other’s drumming. But only older children actually synchronized individual taps.
‘Children did not receive any instructions pertaining to drumming together or coordinating their drumming with their dyad partner.’ \citep{endedijk:2015_development}.
‘While 4-year-olds coordinated the timing of drum hits, children between 2- and 4 years of age showed indications of interpersonal coordination as indicated by the beginnings and endings of drumming bouts. Children showed more overlap in their bouts than would be expected by chance’ \citep[p.~720]{endedijk:2015_development}.
But note that children under four years of age provided no evidence that they synchronized the timings of their beats with each other (as measured by cross-correlation of inter-tap intervals).

Warneken and Tomasello, 2006

Warneken and Tomasello, 2006

Age: 18 months.
This spontaneous helping might be interpreted as initiating joint action. Note that in control conditions,
The videos are from \citep{Warneken:2006bs} but the more detailed study is \citep{Warneken:2006qe}.

Warneken and Tomasello, 2006

From \citep{Warneken:2006bs}. In the control condition, the human gave no signal of needing help. (‘For each task, there was a corresponding control task in which the same basic situation was present but with no in- dication that this was a problem for the adult (14). This ensured that the infant_s motivation was not just to reinstate the original situation or to have the adult repeat the action, but rather to actually help the adult with his problem. ... In control trials, he looked at the object with a neutral facial expression for 20 s. In no case did the infant receive any benefit (reward or praise) for helping. Each individual was tested in all 10 tasks, a subsample of 5 tasks administered as experimental and 5 as control conditions (in systematically varied order).’)

Warneken and Tomasello, 2007 figure 2 (part)

Ages: 14, 18 and 24 months.
Elevator task: free an object from a cylinder. Two roles. Role A: position yourself in the right location to retrieve the target object. Role B: push up the cylinder and hold it in place while another retrieves it.

Warneken and Tomasello, 2007 figure 3 (part)

‘The 14-month-olds of this study displayed coordinated behaviors in the elevator task Role A of positioning themselves in the right location and retrieving the target object from the cylinder when the partner pushed it up, but they had major problems performing Role B, pushing the cylinder up and holding it in place until the partner could fetch the object. If they pushed up the cylinder at all, they would repeatedly drop it when the other person was just about to take the object out’ \citep{warneken:2007_helping}.
\citet[p.~200]{brownell:2011_early} comment: ‘Across these non-routine tasks, 18-month olds’ behavior with the adult partner was rated as predominantly “uncoordinated” (vs. “coordinated” or “very coordinated”) and the children exhibited “low” cooperative engagement (vs. “medium” or “high”). On those tasks requiring children to anticipate the partner’s actions and to adjust their behavior accordingly, 18-month olds’ performance did not differ from chance. By age two, children operated at “medium” levels of cooperative engagement and were above chance in anticipating and coordinating their behavior with the adult.’
‘social coordinations show a marked improvement between children at 14 and 18 months of age’ \citep{warneken:2007_helping}.

Warneken and Tomasello, 2007 figure 2 (part)

Trampoline task: first bounce a cube on the trampoline with an experimenter, then experimenter pauses and we measure child’s attempts to re-engage.

Warneken and Tomasello, 2007 figure 4

The re-engagement is a powerful signal that children

Infants’ ‘attempts to reactivate the partner in interruption periods indicate that they were aware of the interdependency of actions—that the execution of their own actions was conditional on that of the partner’

‘these instances might also exemplify a basic understanding of shared intentionality

Warneken and Tomasello, 2007 pp. 290-1

Infants’ ‘attempts to reactivate the partner in interruption periods indicate that they were aware of the interdependency of actions—that the execution of their own actions was conditional on that of the partner ... these instances might also exemplify a basic understanding of shared intentionality’ \citep[p.~290--1]{warneken:2007_helping}.
Contrast Warneken and Tomasello with Brownell, who offers a different suggestion.
‘advances in infants’ ability to coordinate their behavior with one another are associated with multiple measures of developing self-other representations. One- and two-year olds’ symbolic representation of self and other in pretend play (e.g., pretending that a doll is feeding itself) was related to the amount of coordinated behavior they produced with a peer on the structured cooperation tasks described above (Brownell and Carriger 1990)’ \citep[p.~206]{brownell:2011_early}.
‘children who better produced and comprehended language about their own and others’ feelings and actions, and who could refer to themselves and others using personal pronouns likewise monitored their peer’s behavior more often and produced more joint activity with the peer (Brownell et al 2006)’ \citep[p.~206]{brownell:2011_early}.

Joint Action in Years 1-2

In the first and second years of life,

there is joint action

but it does not appear to involve planning agency

or shared intention.

Bratman’s account does not characterise

the sort of joint actions

infants perform in the first and second years of life.

Two-year-olds perform some joint actions but not others.
What distinguishes the joint actions they can perform from those they cannot?