The attribution of intention to the behaviour of infants and young children, by naive observers.
This thesis addresses itself to the problem of observing, interpreting and explaining ongoing behaviour in the natural environment. It maintains that the ,intention of the actor is the primary characteristic of behaviour and is concerned with how observers attribute intentions to the actions of others. Naive observers were asked to segment the behaviour of infants exhibited to them on a video tape and having done so to describe that behaviour in their own terms. The behaviour sequences selected for observation were relatively "simple",i.e. the behaviour of infants and young children, in order to gain some possible guidelines for a study of more "complex" adult behaviour. The sequences were interpreted on two levels, at the perceptual level and at the level of meaning. It was assumed that by instructing subjects to divide the observed behaviour into perceived segments and subsequently to describe those segments, that some guidelines as to how to proceed with a study of action would emerge. The findings suggest that "naive observers do identify meaningful segments in the ongoing stream of behaviour but that inter-observer agreement about the precise timing of the changes was not high, a finding which differs from studies on adult behaviour. Attributed meanings were also individual, suggesting that the actions observed are not tied specifically to the physical movements of the child but are subject to a range of meaning depending on the observer's individual interpretation. General trends in meaning were, however, observed for the children of different ages. These trends were identified by categorizing the attributions into "functional" categories, developed from a study of early utterances and are assumed to be continuous with later "uses" that language serves.