Infants' processing of action for gist

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Title: Infants' processing of action for gist
Author: Olofson, Eric Lee, 1980-
Abstract: Interpreting human object-directed action requires infants to gloss over surface differences in the motion stream between separate action exemplars and extract the meaning--or gist --of the action. The experiments reported in this dissertation investigated infants' processing of action for gist. During the habituation phase of each experiment, infants saw an actor manipulate an object. At test, infants were shown two perceptually distinct actions in which the actor used a novel hand configuration to contact--but not manipulate--the object. One test trial depicted an action consistent with the gist of the habituation action, while the other test trial depicted a gist-inconsistent action. In question was whether infants would make a generative inference of what the actor was likely to do with the object in test trials, gloss over surface-level differences between the habituation and test actions, and categorize together actions that were similar in gist. It was predicted that infants would demonstrate gist-level processing by looking longer at gist-inconsistent than gist-consistent test trials. In Experiment 1, 5- to 7- and 10- to 12-month-olds' gist-level processing of pushing versus pulling actions was investigated. Experiments 2a and 2b attempted to replicate Experiment 1 using a modified methodology with a group of 6- to 7- and 11- to 12-month-olds, respectively. Experiment 3 investigated whether 10- to 12-month-olds, when observing events involving an actor pushing an object toward a recipient, construe the action at a level of gist that captures the dyadic nature of the interaction or simply the spatial location to which an object is moved. Experiment 4 investigated whether 10- to 12-month-olds process the gist of opening and closing actions. Across the set of experiments, 10- to 12-month-old infants routinely displayed clear-cut evidence of gist-level processing--i.e., at test, they looked longer at trials depicting a gist-inconsistent action than a gist-consistent action, despite these actions being equally perceptually dissimilar from actions in habituation. Data from 5- to 7-month-olds were suggestive of gist-level processing for some actions. These findings point to infants' ability to interpret action at an abstract level in the face of the rampant perceptual variability inherent in human action.
Description: xiv, 125 p. A print copy of this thesis is available through the UO Libraries. Search the library catalog for the location and call number.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1794/8294
Date: 2008-06


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