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Sharing and comparing: how comparing shared goals broadens goal understanding in development

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Sarah Gerson

School/Research organisations


How we recognize the goals of others is a critical question for those interested in social, cognitive, and linguistic development. The origins of goal understanding exist early in life—that is, infants recognize the intentional relations (e.g., between actor and goal) that underlie intentional actions. In this article, I propose one mechanism through which these initially narrow goal representations can be generalized: comparison. I briefly review evidence that comparison facilitates detection of relational similarities across several domains, then address theoretical and neural findings consistent with the notion that comparison plays a role in social-cognitive development. I discuss more direct evidence that infants can and do expand their recognition of others' goals through comparison and then propose several hypotheses concerning the ways in which the benefits of comparison (and facilitative cues to compare) may influence the generalization of action understanding throughout development.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)24-29
JournalChild Development Perspectives
Issue number1
Early online date16 Jan 2014
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2014

    Research areas

  • Comparison, Action understanding, Social cognition

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