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The research catalogue is an archive of ESRC-funded grants and outputs. Links, files and other content will no longer be maintained or updated after April 2014.

Development of Perceptual Causality

This project concerns the tendency to perceive cause-and-effect in schematic events: If square A moves up to B, which moves away at or before contact, adults see this as A launching B, or as B running from A. Thus they relate minimal perceptual information to complex notions of[p]causality in mechanical or purposeful interactions. Prior research found sensitivity to contact causality in infants. This may provide a perceptual blueprint for early understanding of physical cause. The present project focuses on perception of causality without contact. This could provide a blueprint for early understanding of social/psychological causation - people/animals often interact at a distance because they perceive one another from afar. Three issues are addressed experimentally: (1) Whether preverbal infants see causality in noncontact events or merely spatiotemporal sequences. To assess this, infants visual attention is measured; one event repeats until attention decreases, then its recovery is measured on exposure to a new event. (2) How older children and adults verbal judgements map contact and noncontact relations to psychological and physical causality. (3) How this is affected by the objects appearing animate. This work applies a novel approach to the study of childrens causal understanding. Results will shed light on the basis of social cognition.