How badly do you want something? Babies can tell [MIT News]

Screenshot from video clip.
November 23, 2017

Ten-month-old infants determine the value of a goal from how hard someone works to achieve it.

Anne Trafton | MIT News Office
November 23, 2017



Babies as young as 10 months can assess how much someone values a particular goal by observing how hard they are willing to work to achieve it, according to a new study from MIT and Harvard University.

This ability requires integrating information about both the costs of obtaining a goal and the benefit gained by the person seeking it, suggesting that babies acquire very early an intuition about how people make decisions.

“Infants are far from experiencing the world as a ‘blooming, buzzing confusion,’” says lead author Shari Liu, referring to a description by philosopher and psychologist William James about a baby’s first experience of the world. “They interpret people's actions in terms of hidden variables, including the effort [people] expend in producing those actions, and also the value of the goals those actions achieve."




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