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From Action to Communication and Joint Action

Summary: How do humans first come to know truths about actions?

  1. Infants can track the goals of actions from six months or earlier
  2. How? (How is pure goal ascription possible?)

    -- goal ascription is acting in reverse

  3. How do infants model actions?
    Note that Csibra & Gergely offer a continuity hypothesis.

    --RM(a,G) =df if M were tasked with producing G it would plan action a

  4. Infants have something like core knowledge of action
  5. How to get from that to knowledge of actions?
    This is always the sticking point. I don't have a suggestion about how the transition might be made. I think that experience probably plays a role analogous to it plays in knowledge of colour. But there's something else. I want to suggest we can use these discoveries about action to fill out our understanding of communication, and of cooperative interactions.
communication by language
recall from last lecture ...
Now contrast Grice and Davidson on the pointing action from the Hare et al study, where you're supposed to take one of two containers.


Goal: get Ayesha to select the left container

Means: get Ayesha to recognise that I intend Ayesha to select the left container

Intention: to get Ayesha to selet the left container by means of getting Ayesha to recognisethat I am pointing to the left container with the intention that she select the left container.


Goal: get Ayesha to select the left container

Semantic Intention: that Ayesha take this pointing gesture to refer to the left container

Ulterior Intention: that Ayesha select the left container

Strictly speaking, that Ben should come over might not be the first meaning of the wave (so there are other options here).
As before, there's a contrast in what must be intended and so what we're committing ourselves to in saying that infants can produce and comprehend informative pointing.

understanding action

R(a,G) defined with intention

R(a,G) defined non-psychologically


Refers(gesture,object) defined with communicative intention

R(a,G) defined non-psychologically

cooperative interaction

R(a1, a2, ..., G) defined with shared intention

R(a1, a2, ..., G) defined with expectations about common goals