Yin J(1), Tatone D(2), Csibra G(3). Author information:
(1)Department of Psychology, Ningbo University, Ningbo, PR China; Cognitive
Development Center, Department of Cognitive Science, Central European
University, Budapest, Hungary. Electronic address: [Email]
(2)Cognitive Development Center, Department of Cognitive Science, Central
European University, Budapest, Hungary.
(3)Cognitive Development Center, Department of Cognitive Science, Central
European University, Budapest, Hungary; Department of Psychological Sciences,
Birkbeck, University of London, United Kingdom.
Unlike taking, which can be redescribed in non-social and object-directed terms, acts of giving are invariably expressed across languages in a three-argument structure relating agent, patient, and object. Developmental evidence suggests this difference in the syntactic entailment of the patient role to be rooted in a prelinguistic understanding of giving as a patient-directed, hence obligatorily social, action. We hypothesized that minimal cues of possession transfer, known to induce this interpretation in preverbal infants, should similarly encourage adults to perceive the patient of giving, but not taking, actions as integral participant of the observed event, even without cues of overt involvement in the transfer. To test this hypothesis, we measured a known electrophysiological correlate of action understanding (the suppression of alpha-band oscillations) during the observation of giving and taking events, under the assumption that the functional grouping of agent and patient should have induced greater suppression that the representation of individual object-directed actions. As predicted, the observation of giving produced stronger lower alpha suppression than superficially similar acts of object disposal, whereas no difference emerged between taking from an animate patient or an inanimate target. These results suggest that the participants spontaneously represented giving, but not kinematically identical taking actions, as social interactions, and crucially restricted this interpretation to transfer events featuring animate patients. This evidence gives empirical traction to the idea that such asymmetry, rather than being an interpretive propensity circumscribed to the first year of life, is attributable to an ontogenetically stable system dedicated to the efficient identification of interactions based on active transfer.
Having over 250 Research scholars worldwide and more than 400 articles online with open access.