Summary: Researchers delved into the age-old question of agency, using human infants as their study subjects. By tethering an infant’s foot to a crib-mounted mobile, they observed the moment a baby realizes they can influence the environment.
Using innovative motion-capture technology, they captured the dynamic “birth of agency” in 3D. Their findings shed light on how the organism (baby) interacts with its environment (mobile), marking the transition from spontaneous to intentional behavior.
Living things act with purpose. But where does purpose come from? How do humans make sense of their relation to the world and realize their ability to effect change?
These fundamental questions of agency – acting with purpose – have perplexed some of the greatest minds in history including Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Erwin Schrödinger and Niels Bohr.
A Florida Atlantic University study reveals groundbreaking insight into the origins of agency using an unusual and largely untapped source – human babies. Since goal-directed action appears in the first months of human life, the FAU research team used young infants as a test field to understand how spontaneous movement transforms into purposeful action.