Infants' and adults' looking behavior does not indicate perceptual distraction for constrained modelled actions – an eye-tracking study

Buttelmann, David; Schieler, Andy; Wetzel, Nicole; Widmann, Andreas (2017). Infants' and adults' looking behavior does not indicate perceptual distraction for constrained modelled actions – an eye-tracking study. Infant behavior & development, 47, pp. 103-111. Elsevier 10.1016/j.infbeh.2017.04.001

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When observing a novel action, infants pay attention to the model’s constraints when deciding whether to imitate this action or not. Gergely et al. (2002) found that more 14-month-olds copied a model’s use of her head to operate a lamp when she used her head while her hands were free than when she had to use this means because it was the only means available to her (i.e., her hands were occupied). The perceptional distraction account (Beisert et al., 2012) claims that differences between conditions in terms of the amount of attention infants paid to the modeled action caused the differences in infants’ performance between conditions. In order to investigate this assumption we presented 14-month-olds (N = 34) with an eye-tracking paradigm and analyzed their looking behavior when observing the head-touch demonstration in the two original conditions. Subsequently, they had the chance to operate the apparatus themselves, and we measured their imitative responses. In order to explore the perceptional processes taking place in this paradigm in adulthood, we also presented adults (N = 31) with the same task. Apart from the fact that we did not replicate the findings in imitation with our participants, the eye-tracking results do not support the perceptional distraction account: infants did not statistically differ − not even tendentially − in their amount of looking at the modeled action in both conditions. Adults also did not statistically differ in their looking at the relevant action components. However, both groups predominantly observed the relevant head action. Consequently, infants and adults do not seem to attend differently to constrained and unconstrained modelled actions.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


07 Faculty of Human Sciences > Institute of Psychology > Developmental Psychology

UniBE Contributor:

Buttelmann, David


100 Philosophy > 150 Psychology








Jennifer Ruth Sprenger

Date Deposited:

24 Apr 2018 15:27

Last Modified:

24 Apr 2018 15:27

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:





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