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Navigating the Social WorldWhat Infants, Children, and Other Species Can Teach Us$
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Mahzarin R. Banaji and Susan A. Gelman

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199890712

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199890712.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use.date: 02 July 2022

Teleological Understanding of Actions

Teleological Understanding of Actions

(p.38) 1.8 Teleological Understanding of Actions
Navigating the Social World

Gergely Csibra

György Gergely

Oxford University Press

An observed behavior is interpreted as an action directed to a particular end state if it is judged to be the most efficient means available to the agent for achieving this goal in the given environment. When such an interpretation is established, it creates a teleological representation of the action, which is held together by the principle of efficiency. The paradigmatic situation in which the functioning of teleological interpretation can be tested is when one observes a behavior (e.g., an agent jumps into the air while moving in a certain direction) leading to an end state (e.g., the agent stops next to another object). If, and only if, the behavior (jumping) is justified by environmental factors (by the presence of a barrier over which the jumping occurs) will this behavior be interpreted as a means action to achieve the end state as the goal of the action (to get in contact with the other object). Researchers have published extensive evidence that infants from at least six months of age form this kind of teleological representations of actions. This chapter attempts to clarify commonly raised issues about this theory in a question-and-answer format.

Keywords:   observed behavior, agent, goal-directed actions, teleological representation, efficiency, infants

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