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Schuwerk, Tobias; Paulus, Markus (2016): Preschoolers, adolescents, and adults visually anticipate an agent's efficient action;but only after having observed it frequently. In: Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, Vol. 69, No. 4: pp. 800-816
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The present study examined the contribution of efficiency reasoning and statistical learning on visual action anticipation in preschool children, adolescents, and adults. To this end, Experiment 1 assessed proactive eye movements of 5-year-old children, 15-year-old adolescents, and adults, who observed an agent stating the intent to reach a goal as quickly as possible. Subsequently the agent could four times either take a short, hence efficient, or long, hence inefficient, path to get to the goal. The results showed that in the first trial participants in none of the age groups predicted above chance level that the agent would produce the efficient action. Instead, we observed an age-dependent increase in action predictions in the subsequent repeated presentation of the same action. Experiment 2 ruled out that participants' nonconsideration of the efficient path was due to a lack of understanding of the agent's action goal. Moreover, it demonstrated that 5-year-old children do predict that the agent will act efficiently when verbally reasoning about his future action. Overall, the study supports the view that rapid learning from frequency information guides visual action anticipations.