The University of Sussex

Contrasting Piagetian and computational accounts of infant action

Julie Rutkowska

This paper is to appear in Infancia y Apprendizaje, with the extended abstract in Spanish. Demonstrations of early infant competence pose a significant challenge to Piaget's seminal constructivist theory, and many researchers now reject his central claim that the infant's understanding of the world is based upon action. Piaget proposes a deficit model of action, which seems incompatible with infant competence; and problems arise from the concepts he uses, such as his misunderstood claim that sensory-motor abilities should be understood in terms of (vaguely defined) schemes. In this paper, I propose that 'action' can provide a successful explanation of infant abilities, if it is conceptualised in more appropriate computational terms. This approach proves sympathetic to Piaget's theory, but is far more successful in providing a sufficient explanation of the mechanisms underlying infant ability.

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