A study conducted by Florida Atlantic University (FAU) has shed light on the origins of purposeful action, known as agency, by studying human babies. The research used young infants as a test group to understand how spontaneous movement develops into purposeful action. During the experiment, researchers attached one of the infants’ feet to a crib-mounted baby mobile and observed their reactions. The study found that agency emerges from the relationship between the baby and its environment. When the infant realized that their foot movement caused the mobile to move, they transitioned from spontaneous to intentional behavior. This realization was marked by a sudden increase in infant movement rate. The study also revealed that the emergence of agency is a self-organizing process that occurs through both movement and stillness. The researchers identified different clusters of infant activity, suggesting that observable characteristics of agentive discovery exist. This finding may be useful for identifying and treating infants at risk. The study was supported by the FAU Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. Overall, the research provides new insight into the development of agency in humans.
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