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Infants' Perseverative Search Errors Are Induced by Pragmatic Misinterpretation

Science  26 Sep 2008:
Vol. 321, Issue 5897, pp. 1831-1834
DOI: 10.1126/science.1161437

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Abstract

Having repeatedly retrieved an object from a location, human infants tend to search the same place even when they observe the object being hidden at another location. This perseverative error is usually explained by infants' inability to inhibit a previously rewarded search response or to recall the new location. We show that the tendency to commit this error is substantially reduced (from 81 to 41%) when the object is hidden in front of 10-month-old infants without the experimenter using the communicative cues that normally accompany object hiding in this task. We suggest that this improvement is due to an interpretive bias that normally helps infants learn from demonstrations but misleads them in the context of a hiding game. Our finding provides an alternative theoretical perspective on the nature of infants' perseverative search errors.

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