Publications of Schlingloff, L.

Do infants think that agents choose what’s best?

The naïve utility calculus theory of early social cognition argues that by relating an agent’s incurred effort to the expected value of a goal state, young children and infants can reason about observed behaviors. Here we report a series of experiments that tested the scope of such utility-based reasoning adopted to choice situations in the first year of life. We found that 10-month-olds (1) did not expect an agent to prefer a higher quantity of goal objects, given equal action cost (Experiment 1) and (2) did not expect an agent to prefer a goal item that can be reached at lower cost, given equal rewards (Experiment 2a and 2b). Our results thus suggest that young infants’ utility calculus for action understanding may be more limited than previously thought in situations where an agent faces a choice between outcome options.

Do 15-month-old infants prefer helpers? A replication of Hamlin et al. (2007)

Hamlin et al. found in 2007 that preverbal infants displayed a preference for helpers over hinderers. The robustness of this finding and the conditions under which infant sociomoral evaluation can be elicited has since been debated. Here, we conducted a replication of the original study, in which we tested 14- to 16-month-olds using a familiarization procedure with 3D-animated video stimuli. Unlike previous replication attempts, ours uniquely benefitted from detailed procedural advice by Hamlin. In contrast to the original results, only 16 out of 32 infants (50%) in our study reached for the helper; thus, we were not able to replicate the findings. A possible reason for this failure is that infants’ preference for prosocial agents may not be reliably elicited with the procedure and stimuli adopted. Alternatively, the effect size of infants’ preference may be smaller than originally estimated. The study addresses ongoing methodological debates on the replicability of influential findings in infant cognition.