Collaborative partner or social tool? New evidence for young children's understanding of joint intentions in collaborative activities.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Some children's social activities are structured by joint goals. In previous research, the criterion used to determine this was relatively weak: if the partner stopped interacting, did the child attempt to re-engage her? But re-engagement attempts could easily result from the child simply realizing that she needs the partner to reach her own goal in the activity (social tool explanation). In two experiments, 21- and 27-month-old children interacted with an adult in games in which they either did or did not physically need the partner to reach a concrete goal. Moreover, when the partner stopped interacting, she did so because she was either unwilling to continue (breaking off from the joint goal) or unable to continue (presumably still maintaining the joint goal). Children of both age groups encouraged the recalcitrant partner equally often whether she was or was not physically needed for goal attainment. In addition, they did so more often when the partner was unable to continue than when she was unwilling to continue. These findings suggest that young children do not just view their collaborative partners as mindless social tools, but rather as intentional, cooperative agents with whom they must coordinate intentional states.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Warneken, F; Gräfenhain, M; Tomasello, M

Published Date

  • January 2012

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 15 / 1

Start / End Page

  • 54 - 61

PubMed ID

  • 22251292

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1467-7687

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1363-755X

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1111/j.1467-7687.2011.01107.x


  • eng